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Butte County health officials evaluating when to consider COVID-19 an endemic disease


Health officials in Butte County are evaluating when they could start treating COVID-19 more like the flu rather than an emergency.

Public Health Director Danette York said county public health workers need a break.

“Staff are overwhelmed,” she told the Butte County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “They’re exhausted. They’re overstretched, and we need to do whatever we can to decrease the amount of work that they’re trying to do right now.”

York said she’s evaluating when the county could start treating the COVID-19 pandemic as an endemic disease — like how the department responds to influenza on an annual basis. “Basically,” she said, “COVID is here to stay. We need to live with it.”

“We are considering … metrics we want to reach to say, ‘We can do away with our public health emergency declaration,’” York said. “What can we do to get out of incident command system.”

The public health director noted discussions among county administrators are in the early stages. No timeframe was given to move away from the emergency response.

But, York said, public health officials across the country are considering the same question, including the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

State health officials are considering metrics regarding when it could downgrade the pandemic, she said, adding that CDPH — in a phone call — floated a rough timeframe of nine months to a year to decide.

York noted talks are taking place without knowing what other virus variants may emerge, suggesting new developments could influence the calculation.

CDPH did not provide comment before deadline.

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