The public emergency has ended, but COVID is still here. Here are the CDC guidelines for 2023

As of last week, the COVID-19 public health emergency is over. But that's just the administrative declaration that freed up funds and streamlined processes to help the U.S. government deal with the emerging threat.

The actual virus is still here, mutating and spreading, and probably isn't going away.

Florida has seen over 7 1/2 million COVID cases since the pandemic began three years ago, with over 88,000 reported deaths. With the ending of the public health emergency, authorization to require reporting and tracking data from states has changed, which means the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will no longer be providing weekly updates or state- and county-specific data on variants although the agency will continue tracking data through other means.

Case reporting in Florida became less complete when more people began using at-home testing. The state Department of Health stopped sending statistics to the CDC in April at the same time that state officials inexplicably removed more than 32,000 cases without explanation. The FDOH has not issued any statements about how case and death numbers will be reported in the future.

What now? The COVID-19 public health emergency is over. What does that mean for Floridians?

This doesn't mean you're on your own, exactly, but Floridians should be aware of the latest CDC guidelines on COVID-19, which were updated the day the public health emergency ended. Here's what you need to know.

Who should get a COVID-19 vaccine in 2023?

What is the updated COVID vaccine?

When the highly-transmissible, vaccine-resistant BA.4 and BA.5 variants evolved and rapidly became the dominant strains, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna developed a new "bivalent" vaccine and booster that targeted both the original virus and the more dangerous versions.

Updated COVID vaccines: New COVID boosters target the BA.4, BA.5 variants. Here's what you need to know

Was the J&J vaccine pulled off the US the market?

As of May 10, 2023, the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is no longer available in the U.S. According to the CDC, all the remaining doses expired on May 9 and providers have been directed to dispose of any J&J vaccines that were left over from the 31.5 million doses delivered.

The J&J vaccine has had a troubled history. While getting one shot instead of two was popular, its effectiveness was never quite as high as the other two and after reports of blood clots in a small number of J&J recipients the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC temporarily paused the J&J vaccine in 2021. The pause was lifted soon after, but the next year the FDA said the risk of vaccine-induced thrombatic thrombocytopenia outweighed the benefits and the agency limited use of the J&J vaccine to people 18 and over who can't receive a different vaccine or those who specifically request it.

More than 19 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., according to data from the CDC.

What do I do if I got the J&J vaccine?

The CDC recommends that any adult who received one or more doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get one updated dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

What if I can't or don't want to get a Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine?

Novavax is available for people aged 12 and over. The second dose can be taken from 3-8 weeks after the first, but the CDC recommends waiting till 8 weeks, especially for males aged 12-39, to increase the protection and reduce the "rare risk of myocarditis and pericarditis." People aged 65 and older or anyone likely to get very sick from COVID-19 should get the 2nd dose three weeks after the first, the CDC says.

The CDC still recommends an updated Pfizer or Moderna booster for anyone who has received the Novavax vaccine, but Novavax boosters are available for people 18 and up.

What are the COVID quarantine rules in 2023?

Whatever your vaccination status, if you have or suspect you have COVID-19 but don't yet have test results you should isolate yourself from others, according to the latest CDC guidelines, especially if you may have contact with immunocompromised people. If you test negative, you can stop isolating.

If you test positive, stay home at least five days when you are most likely to be infectious. Wear a high-quality mask around others, avoid going anywhere where you can't wear a mask, use a separate bathroom (if possible) and separate personal household items, and monitor your symptoms.

If you tested positive and have no symptoms, Day 1 is the first full day after you were tested. If you develop symptoms within 10 days of getting tested, the clock starts over the day the symptoms developed.

If you tested positive and have symptoms, Day 1 is the day after they started.

If you have no symptoms, or you did and they're improving, you can end isolation after five days if you're fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication. If your symptoms are not improving, keep isolating until they are and you're fever-free for 24 hours.

If you had symptoms and experienced shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or you were hospitalized or have a weakened immune system, you need to isolate for ten days and should consult your medical professional. If you had a severe illness, you may need a viral test before you can end your isolation.

Even if you ended isolated after five days, you should avoid being around high-risk people until at least day 11.

Can I still get free COVID tests by mail?

You will be able to order free at-home COVID-19 tests through through at least the end of May, but they may not last much longer now that the Biden administration is no longer buying them.

  • Private insurance: Insurance providers will no longer have to waive costs or provide free tests, but the Department of Health and Human Services says it is encouraging private insurers to continue covering tests. Check with your own insurance to see what it will offer moving forward.

  • Medicaid: Anyone with coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program can continue to get rapid tests through Sept. 30, 2024. State Medicaid programs will decide what to cover after that.

  • Medicare: Enrollees will no longer receive free at-home tests but lab tests are covered.

  • No insurance? Some communities may still receive stockpiled tests and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a No Cost COVID-19 Testing Locator that can help you find free or reduced tests in your area.

No more free tests: With last day for free at-home covid tests approaching, here's how to avoid scams and fake kits

C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you informed about the things you care about, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news organization. Read more articles by Chris here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: COVID-19 CDC guidelines for 2023 include vaccine pulled off market