- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss what the COVID case increase in the New England States means for the U.S. Read more below.
- New England states are reporting a sharp increase in daily COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron subvariant, BA.2. This rise in numbers (up to and over 40% in cases) has been seen in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey (CIDRAP).
- Shanghai’s lockdown continues as “China’s cases continue to rise steadily, with 13,137 cases reported today, 11,771 of them asymptomatic. Nearly 73% of the asymptomatic cases are from Shanghai.” (CIDRAP).
- The New York Times answers a question that many have had, “Do home COVID tests really expire?” While COVID-19 test boxes do have an expiration date with a huge range of dates, these dates may still be extended because many of the real-time shelf-life studies are not yet fully fleshed out.
- The UK Health Security Agency has updated its guidance of COVID-19 symptoms; although the NHS “cautions that many of the new symptoms ‘are very similar’ to those for colds and flu.” The nine symptoms that were added to fever, new continuous cough, and loss of sense of smell/taste are shortness of breath, feeling tired/exhausted, aching body, headache, sore throat, blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and feeling or being sick (BCC).
- Yesterday, “the European Commission has announced the adoption of two equivalence decisions certifying that COVID-19 certificates issued by Colombia and Malaysia are equivalent to the EU Digital COVID Certificate” thus increasing the number of countries to 64 that are part of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. “Other countries part of the system are the 27 EU Member States, the four non-EU Schengen Members – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – as well as Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Benin, Cabo Verde, El Salvador, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), Uruguay and the Vatican.” (Schengen Visa)
- It’s not too late to get the flu vaccine as there seems to be a delay in the flu season.
- Via the World Health Organization: while overall global influenza activity remains low, they are increasing globally in various areas (including in Europe and North America).
- According to the CDC, influenza activity in the US “is still highest in the central and south-central regions of the country but appears to be declining slightly in these regions. Influenza activity is increasing in the northeast and northwest regions. The majority of influenza viruses detected are A(H3N2). H3N2 viruses identified so far this season are genetically closely related to the vaccine virus.”
Food Safety & Public Health
- Happy Public Health Week! Find out more here.
- As reported in Euronews, the World Health Organization has announced that “almost everybody in the world breathes air containing too many pollutants.” As such the “UN health agency called for more action to reduce fossil-fuel use, which generates pollutants that cause respiratory and blood-flow problems and lead to millions of preventable deaths each year.”
- The ongoing norovirus outbreak linked to contaminated oysters from BC has infected people in Canada and many others in US states (including CA, MN, WA). No cause is stated yet; however, as oysters are filter feeders, growing water contaminated with sewage should be considered.
- The highly pathogenic Eurasian H5 avian flu continues to spread and is now in Texas and Iowa. This outbreak continues to expand and now includes, “Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.” (CIDRAP).
Recommendations for Industry
New England Cases Rise – What’s It Really Mean?
As TAG has expected and predicted, we are now seeing an increase in COVID cases in the New England states driven by the Omicron subvariant, BA.2. Although the increase is showing to be up to 40% in some areas, this is not as drastic as it may sound because the numbers had gotten very low, so even with the increase, the impact is still fairly minor.
This increase is also continuing the trends we’ve seen in the past where the U.S. is tracking with the trends of Europe and the UK about a month later. The positive aspect of that is that we’re seeing that the surge in Europe is already on its way down.
From all this, we would expect some increase in numbers of BA.2 to work its way across the States from East to West, just as trends of past COVID variants have done. We are not recommending any change in business strategy, however. Rather, continue your current strategy of managing those who are sick – ensuring they stay out; but we don’t see a need to reintroduce any further mitigation strategies at this point.
As we have for the last two years, we will continue tracking this and relaying best practices for keeping your workers and business safe.
In Case You Missed It:
- In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the “blip” in U.S. COVID cases, despite the fact that BA.2 has become the dominant variant. Read more here.
- FDA Authorizes Second Booster for Older and Immunocompromised Individuals. FDA authorized a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for older people and certain immunocompromised individuals. A second booster dose may be administered:
- Of Pfizer or Moderna to individuals 50 years of age and older at least 4 months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- Of Pfizer to individuals 12 years of age and older with certain kinds of immunocompromise at least 4 months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine. These are people who have undergone solid organ transplantation, or who are living with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.
- Of Moderna COVID-19 to individuals 18 years of age and older with the same certain kinds of immunocompromise at least 4 months after the first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
- Should you get another booster? The scientific evidence for a fourth dose is incomplete, and researchers do not agree on whether the shots are needed. Experts point out that the limited research so far supports a fourth shot only for those older than 65 or who have underlying conditions that put them at high risk.
- Twenty-one Republican state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Tuesday to block the federal mask mandate on public transportation. The lawsuit comes a few weeks after the Transportation Security Administration extended its mask requirement for airplanes and other forms of public transportation through April 18. The CDC had recommended the extension, even though it suggested in February that most Americans could stop wearing masks. In the lawsuit, the states, led by Florida, argued that the C.D.C. was overreaching its authority with the mandate and was interfering with state laws about masking.
- After rising for 2 weeks, global cases declined again, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest weekly snapshot of the pandemic, but it urged caution about interpreting trends, due to reduced testing in a number of countries. Cases dropped 14% last week compared to the week before, with decreases seen across all of the WHO’s regions. However, deaths rose 45%, primarily due to changes in how some countries define COVID deaths and retrospective adjustments from others. Overall, about 10 million cases were reported, with the most cases in South Korea, Germany, Vietnam, France, and Italy.
- WHO officials also unveiled a third version of a strategy for fighting the pandemic, which spells out three scenarios for how the situation might unfold this year. The WHO Director-General said the most likely scenario is that SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve but severity declines as populations build up immunity due to vaccination and infection.
- The White House has launched a ‘one-stop’ website for COVID-19 needs. Covid.gov is a new one-stop shop for finding COVID-19 vaccines, masks, tests, and treatments by county on an easy-to-use website.
Food Safety & Public Health
- Avian flu has struck flocks in five more states—Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wyoming—expanding outbreak activity westward and to nearly half of US states. The USDA/APHIS announcement lifts the number of affected states to 23, leading to the loss of about 16 million birds. Events have included both backyard flocks and commercial operations, mainly in the Midwest and East.