Trends in STD case reports during the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, January-December 2020
July 16, 2021 – During the COVID-19 pandemic, reported STDs in the U.S. dropped then resurged
New CDC data show that during March-April 2020, reported STD cases dramatically decreased compared to the same time in 2019.
However, a resurgence in gonorrhea and syphilis cases later in the year suggest overall STDs may have increased during 2020.
As of Dec. 12, the cumulative totals for 2020 STD cases compared to 2019 were:
- Chlamydia, 14% lower
- Gonorrhea, 7% higher
- Primary & secondary (P&S) syphilis, 1% lower
Three factors likely contributed to the initial decrease in reported cases:
- Reduced screening – many health care clinics limited in-person visits to symptomatic cases or closed
- Limited resources – many state and local health department STD staff were redirected from routine STD responsibilities to COVID-19 activities, which affected STD tracking capacity and reporting
- Stay-at-home orders – which were intended to reduce COVID-19 spread may have influenced sexual behaviors and reduced STD transmission
COVID-19 highlighted both needs and opportunities in the STD field
CDC identified several ways STD services can meet more people where they are–during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future–including:
- STD express clinics, which provide walk-in testing and treatment without a full clinical exam
- Partnerships with pharmacies and retail health clinics, which can provide new access points for STD testing and treatment
- Telehealth/telemedicine, which can close gaps in testing and treatment, ensure access to healthcare providers, support self-testing or patient-collected specimens, especially in rural areas
Adequate public resources are critical to effective STD control
STD defenses are down. It’s critical to prioritize and focus efforts to control the spread of STDs. This includes on-the-ground support for prevention and surveillance programs at the state and local level.
The line chart shows weekly reported STD cases in 2020 compared to 2019. After COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in spring of 2020, STD cases dropped to 50% (chlamydia), 71% (gonorrhea), and 64% (syphilis) of their 2019 levels. On the last reported week in early December of 2020, weekly STD cases were at 101% (chlamydia), 135% (gonorrhea), and 151% (syphilis) of their 2019 levels.