Please find below the daily updated archive list of TAG's COVID-19 Daily Updates & Resources.
- February 13, 2020
- February 27, 2020
- February 28, 2020
- February 29, 2020
- March 01, 2020
- March 02, 2020
from February 29, 2020.
As of February 29, 2020 there are approximately 85,400 cases worldwide in 61 countries. The CDC currently considers four (4) countries high risk (South Korea, Italy, Iran, China), and one (1) enhanced risk (Japan).
In the United States there are 64 confirmed cases. There is now evidence of possible community transmission associated with cases in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Latin America and Africa have now reported confirmed cases in Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria, respectively.
There is emerging evidence of community transmission of the virus on the West Coast of the United States with a small number of cases in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Community transmission are when cases of illness not explained by overseas travel or contact with a person known to be infected. If you have facilities located in areas with potential community transmission, monitor information from the local and state health authorities for information regarding the outbreak and possible impacts to communities in your area.
Considering the increasing evidence of community transmission, it is important for food establishments to have a plan in place regarding their workforce and incoming goods.
Recommendations for the Food Industry
Fighting COVID-19 in the Workplace
With the COVID-19 situation changing and new announcements being made on a daily basis, it is difficult for employers to know what they can and should be doing for protection. The following are some recommended strategies for employers based on CDC’s most current information and TAG’s interpretation for food facilities.
- Encourage employees who are sick to notify their supervisor and stay home. This is particularly critical for those with symptoms of acute respiratory illness who should stay home until they are free of fever and other symptoms for at least 24 hours – with no healthcare provider note needed. Ensure employees, as well as contract or temporary workers, are aware of the sick leave policies which should be consistent with public health guidance.
- Allow employees to stay home to care for sick family member(s). Any employee with a family member with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- Separate sick employees. Any employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms, including a cough, should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, inform all fellow employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Exposed employees should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- Emphasize respiratory etiquette and proper hand hygiene, placing posters on these, as well as on staying home when sick, around the facility. If you don’t have handwashing stations throughout your facility, provide alcohol-based hand rubs of at least 60-95% alcohol.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning beyond your regular pathogenic and sanitation cleaning. Include all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs, following product label directions and regulatory requirements. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
- If you have employees who travel, advise them to check CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations. Any with symptoms of acute respiratory illness should avoid or cancel travel. If illness strikes during travel, the supervisor should be notified and a healthcare provider promptly called for advice. Outside the U.S., a U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
from February 28, 2020. As the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to expand and evolve, The Acheson Group (TAG), will be tracking the outbreak and providing regular updates (sign up now) around guidance and recommendations to food companies in the United States and internationally. We recognize that the scientific understanding around the COVID-19 outbreak is changing daily and that there is a lack of information available to the food industry about how to respond to and manage risk. We will share our learnings and trends as they may be helpful to the industry.
Our focus will be on brief updates on the status and what has changed, summaries of the latest science as well as suggestions on how to manage the risk with your team members, supply chain or the products you are handling.
As of February 28, 2020, there are approximately 83,000 cases worldwide, 53 countries.
In the United States, there are 60 confirmed cases with apparent evidence of possible community transmission associated with a case in California.
What is COVID-19?
Check out this brief video about COVID-19 from The World Health Organization (WHO) https://openwho.org/courses/introduction-to-ncov
Currently, there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food. However, there is evidence that COVID-19 can likely survive on surfaces for 1-2 days, and maybe up to 9 days.
Recommendations for the Food Industry
As companies prepare, TAG encourages companies to consider the following. We'll be reviewing each of these topics in more detail over the coming days:
- Review employee illness reporting policies in your company and with your employees. Understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and emphasize the importance of people staying home when they are sick or not feeling well. It will be important for companies to track and understand if there's known community transmission of the virus in areas where they operate.
- Reinforce the importance of handwashing. Handwashing is a basic hygiene practice that is required in food establishments, long recommended as a regular practice for all, and of critical importance in preventing transmission and protect your employees and customers. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
- Understand that masks have limited value in protecting against coronavirus. International health organizations (WHO and US CDC) do not recommend the use of surgical masks or respirators (N95 in US or FFP3 in Europe) to protect healthy individuals against community transmission of the virus. Masks will likely be in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers and those caring for those sick with COVID-19.
- Establish a relationship with your local or state health department before the outbreak expands. Reach out by phone or email and determine who you would contact if you had an employee diagnosed with COVID-19 and ask how to contact the department outside of normal business hours. Establishing this relationship now can help ensure information can be rapidly shared if something happens.
- Review or start developing your Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan. The CDC has an excellent outline of things that should be considered when developing these plans and TAG will be writing more on this topic soon.
from February 13, 2020
The numbers of individuals infected with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to climb on a daily basis as do the numbers of deaths associated with the virus. TAG has had many of our clients reach out to ask what should be done to prepare for a growing number of cases in the United States.
As we look at this situation and advise our clients on how to prepare for more cases in the U.S. we think about several different impacts.
The first is whether there is any evidence that virus is able to transmit via food. The short answer currently is that the virus is not being transmitted via food or water. But we do know that in some cases infected individuals get diarrhea and that the stool samples have the virus present. Thus, there is a possible fecal-oral transmission route. Keep in mind that the virus will infect a person if it comes into contact with nose, eyes or mouth. So, if you are operating a foodservice facility you should undertake a deep clean if infected individuals are known to have been in your establishment. It appears that the virus can survive on a surface for a day or two and in carpet or fabrics for up to a week. However, current data indicates that the virus is destroyed by bleach and hydrogen peroxide, so it does not appear to be resistant to the usual cleaning agents.
The second is what to do if someone in your workforce has been to China or has become infected with COVID-19. Our advice is simply to work closely with the local health departments and follow CDC advice. Obviously, you want to control spread and if we see more cases in the U.S. I suspect that there will be a lot more information and advice on how to prevent spread. The good news is that currently spread appears to be occurring through fairly close contact.
The third point is the impact of COVID-19 on your supply chain given the huge impact on China. As we have seen from the beginning, the Coronavirus outbreak has had significant impact on imports from China, and because of the unprecedented measures the Chinese and other governments are taking to control the outbreak, there have been significant disruptions to supply chains around the world. This can be particularly critical if you have been using a China supplier as your sole source for a product or ingredient.
The country’s lockdown on the Hubei area, extending of the Lunar New Year holiday, and shutdown of many factories and businesses is impacting the availability and movement of goods as well as people. It does seem, however, that such actions are serving to help contain the virus. As stated by safety and security solutions provider NC4, most cases outside of mainland China have been imported infections. There have been scattered cases of local human-to-human transmission, but most are directly linked to imported cases, and it is not believed that the virus is actively spreading in local populations outside China.
The concern about supply chain is significant for the food industry, particularly the hidden dangers of having to rush into sourcing from other places that you may not have time to fully assess; the difficulty in getting product from overextended suppliers outside of China; the lack of ingredients that come only from China due to economics; and even any planned travel to China to inspect a provider’s facility or bring on a new supplier. And that doesn’t even factor in the impact on businesses that have their own facilities in China.
So, what can and should you be doing?
Of high importance at this point is reviewing your entiresupply chain for any products, ingredients, or supplies from China, particularly those for which China is your sole source. NC4 is projecting that the current closures in China are likely to be extended again, so even if you are fully stocked in a product or ingredient today, we don’t know how long the restrictions will last. And once the businesses and borders reopen, it will take time to get back to up to speed and fill back orders.
If you do need to add a new supplier quickly, do as much investigation and assessment as possible in the time you have. And make sure they can fulfill your needs, so you don’t end up with further shortages and have to find another additional supplier.
Although our primary goal with these articles is to provide information and education, not be a “sales pitch,” I believe this situation warrants my extending TAG’s offer to assist. No one could have predicted the coronavirus outbreak or all its impacts, and having to deal with this new type of health risk and find a new product or ingredient source virtually overnight is not only challenging, it is fraught with risks. TAG has the experience, expertise, and tools to not only help mitigate supply chain risk, we can provide the insights and guidance to ensure any new (or current) supplier is in compliance with regulatory and non-regulatory standards.
Give us a call. We’re here for you.
About The Acheson Group (TAG): Led by Former FDA Associate Commissioner for Foods Dr. David Acheson, TAG is a food safety consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience, TAG's team of food safety experts help companies more effectively mitigate risk, improve operational efficiencies, and ensure regulatory and standards compliance. www.AchesonGroup.com