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End of Public Health Emergency Doesn’t Mean the End of COVID

Just when it starts to feel like COVID-19 is a thing of the past, along comes a headline like this one:

“China’s New COVID Wave Set to See 65 Million Cases a Week.”

That headline appeared on the Bloomberg News website on May 22—eleven days after the COVID public health emergency ended in the United States. Public health emergency or not, COVID hasn’t gone away, and probably never will.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged as much during a press conference in early May marking the end of the global health emergency.

“The worst thing any country can do now is to use this news as a reason to let down its guard, to dismantle the systems it has built, or to send the message to its people that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about,” he said. “This virus is here to stay. It’s still killing and it’s still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases.”

That doesn’t mean there’s reason to panic. But it does mean that COVID mitigation efforts are still vital, especially among vulnerable sectors of the population.

“It’s OK to be done with the pandemic. It’s not OK to forget about the tools that were developed during the pandemic to keep us safe,” Anand Parekh, chief medical advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Axios recently. “If you’re sympathetic and sick, make sure you test, wear high-quality masks, know where to get treatments, and follow respiratory etiquette.”

For PubSEG, that means continuing to help our clients with contact tracing, vaccine verification, and other disease case management efforts, not just for COVID-19, but for any potential widespread public health risks.

After all, contact tracing has been around long before the start of the COVID pandemic. Health-related quarantines date back at least as far as Medieval times, when people who were believed to have been infected with the Black Death plague were forced to remain in their homes. (It was a likely death sentence for the confined person, but at least it helped protect others.)

The practice of systematically mapping infected individuals to determine the source of outbreaks probably began about 500 years later. According to “The History of Contact Tracing” on dailyhistory.org, one of the earliest recorded efforts to map an outbreak of infection came from a British physician named John Snow (no, not the “Game of Thrones” character). Dr. Snow “helped track and map the source of a cholera outbreak in London in 1854 … (and) it became clear that the source of the infection was a district in Soho.”

Pinpointing the source of outbreaks within a community and using this knowledge to limit the spread of diseases has remained an effective public health measure ever since, and it will continue to be practiced long after COVID.

In California, OSHA laws still require municipalities and state colleges and universities to contact trace for their employees, so having a partner like PubSEG to handle the work for them removes a huge burden from administrators and HR staffs.

“Many of our clients still have to contact trace, but they don’t have to rely on their own staff to do it,” says Dawn Stolte, PubSEG’s Senior VP of Operations. “They put it all on us, and we take care of everything. It’s understandable that people don’t want to be bothered with COVID anymore, so our clients greatly appreciate having someone to take much of that responsibility off their hands.”

PubSEG meets with our clients once a week and regularly collaborates with them regarding new standards, changing protocols, and any other necessary program adjustments.

And PubSEG’s services include the full scope of disease case management, from contact tracing to vaccine verifications to handling the often-cumbersome weekly reports. We have the ability to verify vaccination records not just for COVID, but for any diseases required by colleges before students can step on campus.

The PubSEG Connect software also potentially allows us to manage and store all medical records for clients who choose to outsource that responsibility. The software has a wide range of data capture capabilities.

“Just because the public health emergency has been lifted, it obviously doesn’t mean COVID is over,” Dawn says. “But even beyond COVID, there are so many different ways we can help schools and municipalities with their disease management efforts.”

If you’d like to learn more about the way PubSEG continues to help municipalities, schools, and other organizations, call us at 856-240-8117 or email contact@pubseg.com. We’re always happy to talk.