CHICAGO — As Americans shed masks and return to offices and restaurants, local and state officials are scaling back the most visible public health efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic.
States like Illinois are shuttering free Covid-19 testing sites after nearly two years of operation. Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Ohio have stopped releasing daily data on virus hospitalizations, infections and deaths. And, perhaps most notably, some places are diminishing their campaigns to vaccinate residents even as federal authorities announced on Tuesday that people 50 and older could get a second booster shot.
The slowing of state and local efforts comes as the virus in the United States appears, at least for now, to be in retreat, with cases falling swiftly in recent weeks.
But the cutbacks also arrive at a moment when a more transmissible version of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, known as BA.2, is spreading through Europe, Asia and is now the dominant version of new virus cases in the United States. New coronavirus infections are edging upward once again in several states, including New York.
Americans have received initial shots, and less than one-third of Americans have had a first booster shot.
If another surge in the pandemic is ahead, public health officials said, it could be a challenge to quickly ramp up the vaccination and testing sites and other measures that are now being shut down.
impasse in Washington over Covid spending.
In San Antonio, with a majority of residents already immunized and case numbers at a low, demand for vaccines at the mass site outside the city’s Alamodome has dropped, said Miguel Cervantes, the city’s public health administrator. The site closed on Friday after 15 months of continuous operation and more than 200,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses. At its peak, it administered roughly 3,500 vaccinations a day. Last week, it averaged fewer than 50.
“We haven’t seen the numbers to support a need for a site,” Mr. Cervantes said.
The high price of maintaining the site’s staffing and equipment is a less cost-effective use of those resources than smaller, community-based events, he added. And with the 64,000-seat Alamodome stadium now hosting a full slate of sports and concerts, the parking lot has returned to its prepandemic use.