- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the current status of COVID and the conflicting news. Read more below.
- The CDC has extended mask mandates on planes through May 3 (NYT).
- The FDA has “granted an extension for the shelf life of the authorized” Pfizer vaccine; vials can be stored, frozen, at ultra-low temperatures for up to 12 months from the date at manufacturing. Additionally, an extension was extended to J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine, too which can be held at 2 – 8C for 11 months (FDA).
- Additionally, the FDA has authorized more over-the-counter antigen tests based on recent data (FDA).
- From a study at Virginia Commonwealth University, the pandemic has cut the U.S. life span by 1.87 years. This life expectancy drop is greater than “21 other high-income countries – with greater losses in Hispanic and Black populations.” The study also highlights inequities in the US healthcare system (CIDRAP).
- Shanghai continues to record cases; however, China maintains its ‘zero-COVID’ policy (NBC News).
Public Health & Food Safety:
- OSHA will host a livestream discussion on challenges workers face when reentering the workforce after periods of unemployment with US EEOC Chair Charlotte A Burrows and the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny Yang. Speakers will highlight the barriers that individuals with gaps in employment history face when looking for good jobs, the strengths these workers offer to employers, and promising practices recruiters and hiring officials can use to attract this untapped talent. The livestream will be on April 28, 2022, between 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm ET. Register here.
- A recent large-scale analysis finds that antimicrobial resistant Campylobacter remains prevalent in the US and the UK; suggesting that “antibiotic stewardship efforts have not made a large impact” (CIDRAP).
- Another study is highlighting the risks of patients who have Clostridium difficile infections spreading the disease to household members. In fact, the incidence of CDI “in household members exposed to a recently CDI-hospitalized family member was 73% greater than those not exposed” with increased times in the hospitals for the family member (CIDRAP).
- Reported by Food Safety News, the “United Nations food safety agencies and GFSI local groups shared the stage at the recent GFSI conference in Barcelona.” At this conference, WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety and a senior food safety offer at FAO, “spoke about the agencies’ respective food safety strategies.”
- There is a new Listeria monocytogenes outbreak which has sickened at least 15 people; the FDA is on it. (Food Safety News)
- The CDC has found that US cases of STDs (like gonorrhea and syphilis) has surged to a 30-year high in 2020 (Daily Mail).
Recommendations for Industry
COVID Case Nudges No Cause for Behavior Change
There continues to be conflicting COVID news as CDC extends the travel mask mandate and new subvariants are detected, but case levels stay low in the U.S. What should a business be doing?
On one side, the New York State Department of Health has announced the emergence of two Omicron subvariants in the state (BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1). BA.2 now accounts for 80.6% of COVID-19 infections in New York, with the newly identified subvariants estimated to be 23% – 27% more contagious than the original BA.2 variant.
Additionally, despite pressure from airlines, the hospitality industry, and some lawmakers to lift the rule requiring masks on planes and other public transportation, the CDC extended the federal transportation mask requirement for two weeks. The mask mandate now expires May 3, if it is not extended again.
However, it is the CDC’s own Community Levels map – along with TAG’s weekly COVID matrix – that is showing that COVID levels in much of the country continue to be low, with 95.6% of all communities being green on CDC’s map.
TAG’s advice to businesses: As we’ve said over the last few weeks, cases in the U.S. have tended to “nudge” upward a bit, not showing a surge at all. So, we don’t see this slight increase as a reason to change behavior. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and ensure those who are ill stay home so as to help keep transmission low whether it be from COVID, the flu, or another transmissible illness.
While there are no states with a TPR >10% (case rate >25K/100K), the number of states with a case rate >25 cases/100K has risen to four (Alaska, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Colorado).
In Case You Missed It:
- In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed following the curve. Read more here.
- Extending TSA mask mandate ‘absolutely’ still on the table. On Monday, a top White House COVID-19 adviser said that extending the federal mask mandate for all transportation networks, which is set to expire April 18, is “absolutely” under consideration. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky will make the decision on extending the mask mandate for transportation networks based on a scientific framework that the agency is developing. He also said that framework will be available in the “next few days.”
- Why a Coronavirus-Flu ‘Twindemic’ May Never Happen. Scientists are exploring a theory suggesting that exposure to one respiratory virus helps the body fend off competing pathogens. The idea is that exposure to one respiratory virus may put the body’s immune defenses on high alert, barring other intruders from gaining entry into the airways. This biological phenomenon, called viral interference, may cap the amount of respiratory virus circulating in a region at any given time. At an individual level, there may be some people who end up infected with two or even three viruses at the same time. But at a population level, according to this theory, one virus tends to edge out the others.
- COVID-19 led to unprecedented decline in global life expectancy. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced the world’s life expectancy by about 2 years, according to recent estimates published in Population and Development Review. Life expectancy declined from 2019 to 2020 and again from 2020 to 2021 but appeared to stabilize by the end of 2021, according to the findings. The analysis revealed that the increase in deaths during the pandemic had a substantial impact on global life expectancy, which had previously remained in uninterrupted growth from 1950 to 2019. The U.S. experienced an annual change of just over 2 years of decline, while other countries experienced greater declines.
- New COVID-19 symptoms may feel like the cold or flu. The UK Health Security Agency recently added COVID-19 symptoms to its list. Though they’ve been well known in the United States — they were not previously listed on the U.K.’s list of symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19, flu and common respiratory infections include:
- continuous cough
- high temperature, fever, or chills
- loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
- shortness of breath
- unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
- muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
- not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
- headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual
- sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
- diarrhea, feeling sick or being sick
- COVID Uptick (NYT). Recorded cases are up slightly, standing at about 6 percent of where they were during the peak of the Omicron wave in the Northeast. Hospitalizations are relatively low in most Northeastern states, and deaths are down. Both lag behind cases, typically by weeks. But some experts believe an increase in hospitalizations should have started showing up in at least some places, based on how previous waves played out. While advocating vaccines, treatments, public policy, and individual measures, like masking and social distancing, the article acknowledges that. But America may be looking at its first “so what?” wave — “a surge it cares to neither measure nor respond to.”
- CDC Key Updates for Week 13, ending April 2, 2022. Influenza activity increased nationally this week. Influenza activity is highest in the central and south-central regions of the country and is increasing in the northeastern regions. This week:
- 1.9% of visits to a health care provider are for respiratory illness (below baseline)
- 3 jurisdictions experienced moderate activity and 1 experienced high or very high activity
- The cumulative hospitalization rate was 8.0 per 100,000
- 2,965 patients were admitted to hospitals with influenza
- 7.5 % of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID-19 (above threshold)
- 2 influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported (Total of 16 so far this season)
- Flu cases appearing later than usual, particularly in the Northeast where doctors are seeing an uptick of flu cases a little bit later than the norm.