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CDC is changing the way it monitors COVID-19 in the US



Recognizing that he is losing part of his eyes and ears in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week unveiled a scaled-down COVID-19 surveillance system for the post-pandemic era.

The CDC’s new monitoring network will not have the exact resolution for the coronavirus that the agency sought in the earlier stages of the pandemic. But it will bring together a host of new and existing tools to keep tabs on the virus, as well as more broadly monitor the health of the population.

With the federal government’s three-year public health emergency expiring next Thursday, the agency will begin tracking cases of COVID-19 along with other respiratory illnesses, it said. Dr. Nirav D Shah, chief associate director of the CDC. New cases of the pandemic virus that caused 1.1 million deaths in the US and 6.9 million deaths around the world will eventually be lumped together with flu, respiratory syncytial virus and other infections that can cause pneumonia and death in humans.

The CDC will continue to be able to alert communities to coronavirus outbreaks through ongoing monitoring of emergency room visits, COVID-19 hospital admissions, and monitoring of wastewater from local wastewater treatment plants. Reliable mortality statistics from COVID-19 will lag behind other data.

Shah said the CDC’s plan would give a picture of the pandemic virus that is “superior” to the data it collects on influenza and RSV. However, the agency’s website will no longer offer the detailed local conditions that many Americans have come to rely on. And the data that will be posted will be collected and updated less frequently.

“The CDC will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 and provide information to which we have access,” the doctor said. Rochelle Walensky, outgoing agency director, told members US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Thursday. “We have been working hard to maintain the data to understand what is happening with the virus in America. But the end [public health emergency] means that the CDC will no longer be able to collect data and share information that many Americans expect.”

For example, the CDC color code COVID-19 Community Risk Mapswhich provided county-level estimates of the spread of the coronavirus and the capacity of local hospitals to care for infected patients will be discontinued, Shah said.

Adopted in February 2022, the CDC’s community-level COVID-19 cards depended heavily on the willingness of Americans to get tested at labs and clinics, which in turn informed the agency about the number and rate of new infections. But milder infections have led to fewer tests, and home testing has become the norm — trends that have depleted the CDC’s sources of reliable, localized data.

Indeed, experts have concluded in recent months that the CDC count of new cases is no longer a reliable indicator of the spread of the coronavirus.

At the same time, many states and counties stopped collecting or sharing data about COVID-19 altogether. This has made it more difficult to maintain and update local risk maps and document health disparities based on race and ethnicity, Walensky said.

The CDC also wants to lose some understanding of the demographics of people seeking vaccines. Most, though not all, states and territories have committed to continue to report the age, gender, and ethnicity of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. But this data will no longer be regularly updated on the CDC website.

“We can handle it,” Valensky said on Capitol Hill. “However, this should be of concern to all of us, primarily because it indicates the visibility of the next outbreak. We will return to the starting point.”

To monitor the virus that causes COVID-19, the CDC will rely on an established network of health systems and public health departments across the country that are already helping the agency track down respiratory and other illnesses. They will provide real-time data on patients being treated for COVID-19 and other influenza-like illnesses, and the CDC will review death certificates for information on deaths from COVID-19.

Surveillance networks such as RESPNETmeanwhile, will continue to collect laboratory data on respiratory viruses from regions that cover more than 29 million people in 13 states. A second system of 450 laboratories across the country will provide the CDC with data on viruses that cause respiratory illness.

Over the past two years, the agency has engaged and trained an ever-increasing number of partners—local health departments, wastewater treatment plant operators, and private and academic laboratories—to help detect, sample, and measure SARS-CoV-2 virus concentrations in wastewater. Shah said the new network will continue to evaluate the water we flush into our toilets and down the drain to provide early warning of worrying trends.

Waste water supervision can provide very localized evidence that infections ticked up even if the people shedding the virus were not diagnosed. The data is especially useful if it is followed by a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and can be combined to paint a national picture of the rise and fall in infections. (Sewage monitoring also helped detect the spread of smallpox in Los Angeles and signaled the presence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in the area.)

Combined with genetic sequencing, another public health tool that has become widespread during the pandemic, wastewater samples can help detect changes in the pandemic virus, including the emergence of new variants.

A new program to collect and genetically sequence biological samples from travelers – voluntarily as well as from commercial aircraft wastewater – is expected to provide insight into coronavirus variants entering the United States from overseas.

Dr. Brendan Jackson, CDC’s COVID-19 response manager, said genetic sequencing will remain one of the public health agency’s most effective tools, both for detecting potentially dangerous virus mutations and for recombinations that could completely change its behavior.

Shah expressed confidence that given the wide range of data sources he will continue to have, “we will have a good idea” of the state of COVID-19 in America.

“We can still tell it’s snowing even if we can’t count every snowflake,” he said.

Times Staff Writer Karen Kaplan contributed to this report.

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California Indemnity Task Force to Vote Formal Apology



OAKLAND, California. — The California Reparations Task Force is due to wrap up its first-in-the-nation work on Saturday, voting on recommendations for a formal apology for the state’s role in perpetuating the legacy of slavery and discrimination that has kept black residents from living free for decades.

The nine-member committee, first convened almost two years ago, is expected to finally approve an impressive list of ambitious proposals at a meeting in Oakland, which will then be put into the hands of state legislators.

Recommendations range from creating a new agency to provide services to the descendants of enslaved people, to individual calculations of what the state owes residents for decades of harm such as excessive policing and housing discrimination.

“An apology and admission of wrongdoing alone will not be satisfactory for redress,” said Chris Lodgson, organizer of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, a redress advocacy group.

The apology prepared by the Legislative Assembly should “include condemnation of the most heinous barbarities” committed in the name of the state, according to a draft recommendation to be voted on.

Such a list could include censorship by a former governor of California. Peter Hardeman Burnett, the state’s first elected leader and white supremacist who encouraged laws to exclude blacks from California

Although California entered the union as a free state, it has not enacted laws to provide such freedom, the bill says. Under the draft, the state Supreme Court enacted the federal Fugitive Slave Act, which permitted the capture and return of fugitive enslaved people until the official end of enslavement in 1865.

“By participating in these horrors, California has further perpetuated the harm that African Americans have experienced by instilling racial prejudice in society through segregation, state and private discrimination, and unequal distribution of state and federal funding,” the project says.

The task force can vote for the state to publicly apologize and admit responsibility for past mistakes in the presence of people whose ancestors were enslaved. The confession may be communicated by descendants recounting the injustices they have faced and include a promise that California will not repeat the same mistakes.

The statement would follow the state’s apology for placing Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II and perpetuating the violence and mistreatment of Native Americans.

Saturday’s meeting marks a defining moment in a long struggle by local, state, and federal governments to offer compensation for policies that have resulted in over-control of black neighborhoods, housing discrimination, health disparities, and other harms. But the proposals are far from being implemented by the state.

“There is not the slightest chance that many of these recommendations will be accepted due to inflationary impact,” said Roy L. Brooks, a professor and indemnity specialist at the University of San Diego School of Law.

Papers outlining recommendations to a task force of economists have previously shown that the state could owe more than $800 billion, more than 2.5 times its annual budget, for excessive police, disproportionate imprisonment and housing discrimination against blacks.

The score dropped sharply in the latest draft report released by the task force, which did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment on the reduction.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a former Democratic Assemblyman, drafted legislation in 2020 to create a task force. The goal was to explore proposals for how California could offer compensation for harm done to the descendants of enslaved people under the bill. He did not recommend reparations in lieu of the federal government’s proposals.

The task force had previously voted to limit damages to descendants of enslaved or formerly enslaved blacks who were in the country by the end of the 19th century.

The California team’s work has received nationwide attention, and remedial efforts elsewhere have met with mixed results.

Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, housing vouchers were offered to black residents, but few took advantage of the program. New York State’s latest bill to study reparations has been passed by the State Assembly, but the State Senate has yet to vote on the measure. A multi-year proposal to create a commission to study federal reparations for African Americans has stalled in Congress.

Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania who wrote a book about a former slave girl’s struggle for redress, said the California task force’s efforts “should be encouraging.”

“The fact that California has gone so far as to give a yes to the reparations question should … have an impact on people in other parts of the country,” she said.


Sophie Austin is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues. Follow Austin on Twitter: @sophieadanna

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No more gas stoves? New York City bans natural gas in new buildings.



New York is the first state to ban natural gas from most new buildings. Climate advocates praise the move as groundbreaking, but opponents criticize it as overbearing.

This is part of the state’s larger plan to achieve zero energy emissions by 2050. Supporters hope other states will join.

However, while most Empire State residents agree that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the right thing to do, gas stove aficionados are reluctant to give up open flames. Critics say the plan would be too costly for needy consumers, could strain the state’s power grid and fail to address the severity of New York’s unusually cold winters.

Why did we write this

Does the responsibility lie in acting quickly to reduce natural gas emissions, or in being careful about the impact of energy mandates on consumers and the grid?

Natural gas is widely used to generate electricity here and throughout the country. It burns cleaner than fossil fuels such as coal and oil, but can pollute the environment just as badly as coal. depending on how much methane leaks from production to delivery. V new law instead calls for energy efficient heat pumps.

in 2021, slightly more than half According to the US Energy Information Administration, some of New York City’s electricity comes from environmentally friendly sources such as nuclear power and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower, and geothermal pumps. The state’s goal is to generate 70% emission-free electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2040. In addition to helping to tackle climate change, supporters say that the growth of green energy will create jobs, improve indoor and outdoor air quality, and lower utility bills.

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A fire rages at a Shell chemical plant in Texas.



Firefighters fight a huge fire at a Shell chemical plant in Deer Park, Texas that appears to have been caused by an explosion.

No deaths have been reported, but several employees are “undergoing medical examination as a precautionary measure” after “exposure to the product,” according to Deer Park’s Office of Emergency Management.

Shell said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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