Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency in March 2020, the public health STD prevention field has redeployed its limited resources and staff to face the pandemic head on. The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is supporting the emergency response of our members—health department STD directors and their support staff, disease intervention specialists (DIS), STD and sexual health clinics, and community-based partners across 50 states, seven large cities, and eight U.S. territories. As part of these efforts, we continue to survey this membership. In May 2020, we published an initial report on survey findings, COVID-19 and the State of the STD Field, which highlights the immediate response of the STD prevention field to the pandemic.
The following report is a three month follow-up to this initial publication and highlights our field’s ongoing, longer term response to COVID-19 and what effect this response has had and will continue to have on our nation’s STD programs and the work of disease intervention specialists.
On June 1, 2020 NCSD distributed Phase II SurveyMonkey assessments to STD program directors of the 65 jurisdictions directly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our network of 1,100 disease intervention specialists. NCSD staff also performed direct outreach to our full members and members of our DIS Advisory Committee to gather qualitative data to supplement survey responses and to identify areas for support and technical assistance. Fifty-two DIS responded to the assessment, and 75 percent of the 65 jurisdictions are represented in the survey, including low, medium, and high morbidity jurisdictions. All geographical areas are represented, as well as metropolitan areas.
Survey data and direct outreach to stakeholders confirm that the COVID-19 emergency response continues to have significant impacts on STD programs and STD prevention efforts across the nation. STD program and DIS staff have years of contact tracing experience, and the majority have been redeployed to lead, staff, assist, or support their state’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. Only two percent of STD programs have not been involved in their state’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. Staff redeployments and additional COVID-19 workloads is overwhelming for STD program and DIS staff, as many are expected to maintain priority STD/HIV caseloads while also taking on additional COVID-19 contact tracing duties. Many STD program and DIS staff are asked to work overtime as well as to work outside of normal business hours. Many STD program and DIS staff are concerned regarding the state of the STD field, the very real threat of STD/HIV outbreaks, and a decreased and burnt out workforce.