- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the impact of the national COVID plans on workforce decision-making. Read more below.
- White House Releases National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. On Wednesday, the U.S. government released the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan laying out the “roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we begin to get back to our more normal routines.” The 96-page plan focuses on four goals – All of which require working with Congress for resources.
- Protect Against and Treat Covid-19 – maintaining and continually enhancing the tools to protect against and treat COVID-19 and working with Congress for the resources to do just that.
- Prepare for New Variants. The administration has developed a comprehensive plan for how to monitor the virus to stay ahead of it, adapt tools swiftly to combat a new variant, and deploy emergency resources to help communities. Includes CDC tracking and sequencing, the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS), a network of researchers, and FEMA/HHS emergency response.
- Prevent Economic and Educational Shutdowns. Giving schools and businesses tools to prevent economic and educational shutdowns, so students can remain safe in school, workers safe at work, and the economy can continue to grow (e.g., improving school ventilation, accessing tests, and hiring more teachers, nurses, and staff; the vaccination campaign and requirements.)
- Continue to Vaccinate the World. “Fighting this virus abroad is key to America’s effort to protect people and stay ahead of new variants.” Will continue to provide vaccines to the world, help to get people vaccinated, deploy emergency supplies to countries experiencing surges in COVID-19, and advance sustainable capacity and financing for health security to fight COVID-19 variants.
- Registry data reveal symptoms, outcomes of anaphylaxis from COVID-19 vaccination. Anaphylaxis accounted for 15% of the adverse reports from clinicians after mRNA vaccinations for COVID-19, according to an abstract at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting. Anaphylaxis appeared more common following vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech and among white women. Although most received emergency treatment, few required hospitalization, and none were treated in the ICU.
- Polls show Americans less worried about COVID-19. A new AP/NORC poll shows just 24% of Americans say they are “extremely” or “very” worried about themselves or a family member getting COVID, down from 36% in December and January. Another 34% of poll participants said they are somewhat worried about the virus. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 49% of Americans say the pandemic is only somewhat under control, 15% say it is not at all under control; 56% say they have fully or partly returned to pre-coronavirus life; 34% see the pandemic as largely controlled, the highest proportion since tracking began. Additionally, 60% expect and welcome some restrictions on daily life; 40% said no restrictions are needed at this point.
- Global COVID-19 cases, deaths drop, except in key hot spots. The WHO’s latest update showed that COVID-19 surges continue to intensify in locations such as Hong Kong, where Omicron variant activity got a later foothold, but cases and deaths continue to fall in most regions. Overall, cases declined 16% last week compared to the week before, reflecting a 4-week downward trend; deaths dropped by 10%.
- Ben Franklin’s vaccine lessons . Nearly 60 million American adults — or about one out of every four — remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, and a large majority of COVID deaths and hospitalizations are still occurring among the unvaccinated and unboosted. But that choice has a “long, historical tradition,” with the two most effective responses to vaccine skepticism having been government mandates and relentless, calm persuasion. While broad COVID-vaccine mandates are probably unrealistic in the U.S. today, we’re left with persuasion: taking seriously the concerns of skeptics and creating opportunities for doctors, nurses, relatives, friends and other trusted people to explain why vaccination can be counterintuitive and yet lifesaving.
- FDA declares end to investigation into outbreak associated with packaged salad.As of March 2, the FDA closed its investigation into an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to packaged leafy greens. The outbreak sickened 10 people, four of which were hospitalized. The four-state outbreak was linked to Nature’s Basket Power Greens and Simple Truth Organic Power Greens.
Recommendations for Industry
How Do CDC’s Adjusted Community Levels Apply to Your Workforce Levels?
Both TAG’s weekly COVID matrix and other tracking measures (such as CDC) are continuing to show decreasing rates across the US, which has led to a newly released National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan from the federal government as well as CDC’s updating of its community levels related to recommended protection measures.
With the continued reduction in cases and refocusing on the national level, businesses are seeking to determine how the CDC’s new community levels should be applied to their workforce levels, as well as other protections they should be continuing, concluding, or realigning – both for COVID and for other potential infectious disease.
To assist clients, TAG is continuing to provide assessments of current status and recommendations for protections, not only against COVID, but also other emerging workplace communicable disease. A key factor of this is a stepwise strategy for “calibrating” risk mitigation strategies to enable workplaces to adjust policies to match community hospitalization rates as well as workplace case and vaccination rates.
A first step is monitoring the percentage of the workforce currently reporting respiratory illness-like symptoms. This allows for the rapid identification of emerging clusters in an employee population and provides a basis for the continuation or reimplementation of masking requirements or recommendations, particularly in higher risk areas of a facility or office where people are in close contact for longer periods. It also is essential to remember that this must be done in compliance with any state or local requirements, with those requirements taking precedence when considering a dial back in risk mitigation measures.
For TAG’s complete guidance on risk mitigation for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, contact us to request the latest version of the Risk Mitigation and Planning Toolkit.
As you will see in this week’s risk matrix, there is a steady decline of case rates (and TPR and Rts) throughout the country. Some states continue to have high case rates including, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and West Virginia.
In Case You Missed It:
- In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed CDC’s new masking guidance and the utilization of the County-Searchable Tool. Read more here.
- A recent CDC study has found that about 43% of individuals (>140 million) in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19 (Washington Post). States like Wyoming, Texas, Wisconsin, and Illinois have had a high percentage of their populations infected. As Omicron cases are decreasing in the U.S., leading to decreased worries and fears surrounding COVID-19 infections (AP News), COVID-19 cases and related deaths have risen in other parts of the world (including South Korea and Hong Kong).
- The CDC’s new masking guidance follows along various measures by community spread at the county level. Find the county-searchable tool, here.
- The FDA has updated its over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 test list; the table now includes information about “who can use the test” given the symptoms, age, and other details (including time needed and whether said test results can be approved via telehealth supervision).
- In the realm of vaccines, a new COVID vaccine produced by Sanofi is found to have 100% efficiency against severe disease and hospitalization (NY Times). On the other hand, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was found to only have 12% efficacy in children 5 – 11 years of age, against the Omicron variant; this is theorized to be due in part to the lower dosages given to children (CNBC).
- There has been a potential deer-to-human COVID-19 infection in Canada (The Guardian).
- In the U.S., and globally; while flu cases continue in various places, generally this flu season is considered a mild one. Activity remains low and decreased after the peak at the end of December 2021.
Food Safety & Public Health:
- Another death associated with Cronobacter sakazakii is expanding the Abbott Nutrition infant formula recall. See FDA’s site to see more information on the lots affected by the recall.
- The USDA has amended the national List for organic handling, crops, and livestock. There have been a few substances removed (including Vitamin B1, procaine, and 14 nonorganic ingredients), while renewing for sucrose octanoate esters (for crops and livestock production) and oxytocin (for livestock production). Read more here.