- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the possibility of a “twindemic” and how businesses can prepare. Read more below.
- The Omicron variant is now dominant in the U.S., accounting for 73% of all new COVID-19 cases. However, the Delta variant does continue to spread. In Canada, Quebec “became the latest region to implement restrictions, closing bars and schools and mandating remote working, as COVID-19 cases rise.”
- As has been noted in the news, the WHO has announced that the “Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the COVID-19 disease.”
- The New York Times breaks down how you can best utilize an at-home test, prior to the holidays and before meeting others in large gatherings.
- As individuals debate whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or not, recent research has found that “a positive [COVID-19] test [is] tied to much higher odds of” myocarditis (Inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall) than from actually receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Another study has found that 1 in 10 pediatric COVID-19 patients may develop sever GI issues. A third study has also found that there is “very low risk of death” with multi-inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) with COVID-19. Finally, additional research has also found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral medication, Paxlovid, is promisingly effective against the Omicron variant. However, as with most things, more data is needed.
- In Europe, leaders are weighing implementing tougher measures and preventive controls as Omicron cases surge. As part of this, the Netherlands has entered a lockdown to limit spread while the UK and Germany are considering next steps. German leaders will be meeting to discuss further preventive measures including “limiting public venues to vaccinated or recovered people, capping gathering size, and speeding up the booster shot campaign.” In fact, cities like London, Paris, and Rome are canceling New Year’s Eve events.
- In the US, according to HealthMap and the CDC, influenza numbers are increasing with almost all of them being the H3N2 strain (Influenza A). Cases are increasing as identified through indicators, including hospitalizations. Although early activity had focused on those ages 5 to 24, the proportion of illnesses in older age-groups has risen in recent weeks.
- Several states are starting to report low numbers of deaths due to flu and cases are approaching where they were 2 years ago. Unfortunately, the “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19 that public health leaders wrongly predicted last year might happen this year.
- However, it should be noted that testing for flu is likely unusually high this year because that is the only sure way to differentiate between flu and COVID-19.
- According to the CDC, “Influenza activity is increasing, with the eastern and central parts of the country seeing the largest increases and the western part of the country reporting lower levels of influenza virus circulation at this time.”
- According to the WHO, “Globally, influenza activity continued to increase but remains well below levels observed in previous seasons.”
Food Safety & Public Health:
- The FDA has released its annual summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed in 2020 for use in food-producing animals. To add to this, Brazilian restrictions on antibiotics sales has been linked to a decline in antimicrobial resistance (this is good news!)
Recommendations for Industry
Are You Prepared for a Twindemic?
A year ago this time, we were anticipating a “twindemic” of COVID-19 and the flu. While it never quite reached that level last year – likely due to precautions still being taken, the confluence of the Omicron variant and flu numbers trending toward pre-COVID levels, we are very likely to see a twindemic as we move into 2022.
- COVID – As stated in Key Points, the Delta variant is continuing to spread, but Omicron is now accounting for 73% of all new COVID-19 cases. More than 50 million COVID cases have been reported in the last 30 days, with CDC listing community transmission as high, and COVIDActNow listing the risk levels of at least four states as “severe.”
- FLU – Case numbers are increasing with several states starting to report levels approaching those of two years ago. While the increased detection also is somewhat due to increased testing caused by COVID fears, this may, in fact, give us a more accurate picture of the actual flu season.
But whether due to COVID or flu, absenteeism due to employee illness is likely to increase, so it is important for businesses to plan:
- What are your mission-critical processes?
- Can workers be moved around to help fulfill these if needed?
- Do you have a plan for back-ups for managers, supervisors, or other lead personnel should they become ill?
- Are your remote capabilities as good as they can be for those who would have the option to work from home?
- Do you have access to adequate COVID testing if you need to manage employee isolation and quarantine periods?
If you don’t feel you are as prepared as you may need to be, or would like other recommendations or assistance, give TAG a call. We can review your plan or assist in preparing one.
In Case You Missed It
- In last Thursday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the rise of Omicron. Read more here.
- COVID deaths in the US surpass 800,000 (NYT). It is the highest known number of any country. Known virus cases in the US rose above 50 million and more than 1,200 people are dying from COVID-19 each day. The worldwide death toll has topped 5 million (JH). The last 100,000 deaths in the US occurred in less than 11 weeks as the pace picked up, moving faster than at any time other than last winter’s surge. The current uptick is being driven by the Delta variant.
- Canada reimposes advisory against all non-essential international travel (immigration.ca). Canada has reimposed its advisory against all non-essential international travel as it looks to stop the spread of Omicron. The new advisory was announced on Wednesday by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, saying “To those who were planning to travel I say very clearly: now is not the time to travel.” He added that those who do travel abroad risk being stranded, due to the rapidly evolving situation with Omicron and the likelihood that Canada and other countries could impose new restrictions.
- New laboratory studies indicate that vaccines, especially boosters, may protect against the worst outcomes of Omicron, but will still cause breakthrough infections. (NYT). At a World Health Organization meeting, scientists reported on research suggesting that T cells in vaccinated people can put up a tough defense against the variant, which could help prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death. On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said preliminary data from his institute’s analysis of the Moderna vaccine showed that two shots produced a negligible antibody response in the laboratory, but protection shot up after a third dose. He added that “at this point, there is no need for a very specific booster” to fight Omicron. Others presented similar results, showing that mRNA boosters raised antibodies to levels believed high enough to offer strong protection against infection. “Breakthrough” COVID-19 Hospitalizations Among Fully Vaccinated Patients (KFF) occur most often among older adults, involve people with chronic health conditions, involve shorter hospital stays and appear more likely to be hospitalized primarily for non-COVID ailments, as found in a new analysis of hospital data from June through September by KFF and Epic Research.
- Tests Expected to Fail to Detect the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant (FDA). Due to the inability of these tests to detect the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, the FDA recommends that these tests should not be used until these issues are resolved.
- Ontario researchers have created chemical compounds that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and several of its variants. (CTV News/Canada). Detailing their findings in a paper published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researchers at the University of Toronto created “D-peptides” that can neutralize the virus and stop infection of cultured human cells. D-peptides, also known as “mirror-image peptides” are chemical compounds that have properties that allow them to be developed into low-cost antiviral therapeutics.
Food Safety & Public Health:
- VQIP Application Portal to Open for FY 2023. On January 1, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will open the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program(VQIP) application portal for fiscal year (FY) 2023. The portal will close May 31, 2022.