During the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions were anticipated in the US health care system for routine preventive and other nonemergency care, including sexually transmitted infection care.
Using a large national laboratory data set, we assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the weekly numbers and percent positivity of chlamydia and gonorrhea tests ordered from the 5th week of 2019 to the 52nd week of 2020 in the United States. We compared weekly 2020 values for test volume, percent positive, and number of positives with the same week in 2019. We also examined the potential impact of stay-at-home orders for the month of April 2020.
Immediately after the declaration of a national emergency for COVID-19 (week 11, 2020), the weekly number of gonorrhea and chlamydia tests steeply decreased. Tests then rebounded toward the 2019 pre–COVID-19 level beginning the 15th week of 2020. The weekly percent positive of chlamydia and gonorrhea remained consistently higher in 2020. In April 2020, the overall number of chlamydia tests was reduced by 53.0% (54.1% in states with stay-at-home orders vs. 45.5% in states without stay-at-home orders), whereas the percent positive of chlamydia and gonorrhea tests increased by 23.5% and 79.1%, respectively.
To limit the impact of the pandemic on control of chlamydia and gonorrhea, public health officials and health care providers can assess measures put in place during the pandemic and develop new interventions to enable care for sexually transmitted infections to be delivered under pandemic and other emergency conditions. The assessment like this study is continuously needed.