The COVID-19 crisis in Missouri is over, Gov. Mike Parson said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
But, the SARS-Co V-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, will continue to circulate in the community in much the same way influenza does, Paula Nickelson, acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said during the news conference.
The state is entering an endemic phase of COVID-19 response, Parson said, meaning the disease will continue regularly to be found in communities.
The state will continue to monitor sewersheds (for viruses), hospitalizations, deaths and outbreaks of illnesses reported to emergency departments.
“The surveillance for COVID will be somewhat similar to our surveillance for influenza,” Nickelson said, “which allows us all to know when there are seasons of influenza requiring more resources.”
Similarly, she said, COVID-19 surveillance will allow the state to recognize surges that might require additional resources and mitigation strategies.
Parson said transmission is at its lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic. It is estimated that the vast majority of Missourians, either through vaccinations or through past infection, have received protections from the virus, he said.
“We believe the need for COVID-19 crisis response has come to an end,” Parson said. “The COVID-19 crisis is over here in the State of Missouri. As such, in communication with local health departments, health experts and partners across the state, we will transition to an endemic recovery phase.”
The transition is to become effective Friday.
At that time, Missouri will respond to COVID-19 the same ways it does to other viruses, he said.
Universal contact tracing and individual case investigations are to end.
Missouri will base response and mitigation strategies on regional- and community-level trends, Parson said. It will focus less on individual case-based data.
No longer will the state provide daily updates for vaccinations, testing or positivity rates.
“We will discontinue individual county-level case reporting and adopt the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s) color-coded identifiers for regions and counties,” Parson said. “This does not mean that COVID will no longer be present or future spikes in cases will not occur.”
Because of lessons learned over the past two years, and the tools to battle the virus the state has acquired during that time, the threat the virus poses is diminished, he said.
“There will likely be new variants and outbreaks in the future. But, this new endemic phase will allow us to continue and adapt as needed,” he said.
The virus is here to stay, he said.
“Missourians have learned to live with COVID while living their normal lives,” he said.
More information about the state’s endemic phase response to COVID-19 may be found at https://bit.ly/3iQ0jML.
The website states a priority will “change from monitoring case numbers to monitoring disease severity and societal impact.” The state will use metrics for local outbreaks, hospitalizations, deaths, variant sequencing, sewershed testing, positivity rates (within hospitals only) and case and illness reports to provide information needed to monitor trends and identify concerns.
The state’s COVID-19 dashboard will transition from daily reporting to weekly reporting. It will emphasize tracking severity. It will publish once per week.
Availability of vaccines, tests and therapeutic treatments will continue “as long as federal resources persist, but will shift to traditional health care delivery over time,” the site states.
Parson assured listeners during the news conference that the state has hundreds of thousands of vaccines and tests available.
Since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, Missouri has also expanded its capabilities in areas of personal protective equipment, hospital capacity and data collection.
More information about vaccines, testing resources, and treatment options, and the updated COVID-19 dashboard may be found by visiting health.mo.gov/coronavirus.