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U.S. COVID Case Rate Descent Hits Plateau

Key Points

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss TAG’s weekly matrix, the plateauing of case rates, and what businesses need to be doing. Read more below.
  • The pandemic is not yet over, although there are positive signs in the U.S. that “with more and more Americans vaccinated, it’s not likely to linger as long or do as much damage because there’s a level of protection this season that wasn’t there last year.” However, it’s still important to retain all protective measures.
  • Like other European countries, Germany is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases. Today marks the “fourth day in a row that it has posted a fresh daily high.” As millions of Germans are yet to be vaccinated, there is some fear that the estimated “100,000 deaths [is] a ‘conservative estimate’ and that there is indeed a real emergency situation” at this time.

Public Health/Food Safety

  • The WHO is warning that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of and fight against measles has declined. In fact, “more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of measles vaccine” in 2020, “marking the largest increase in two decades and creating dangerous conditions for outbreaks to occur.” In 2020 alone, due to weak monitoring, testing, and reporting, “major measles outbreaks occurred in 26 countries.”
    • We have discussed similar issues with Tuberculous tracking, reporting, and prevention.

Recommendations for Industry

U.S. COVID Case Rate Descent Hits Plateau

As the TAG matrix is showing this week, the previous decline in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has ceased, hitting a plateau in case rates, with transmission rates rising across most states. If we follow the trend in Europe – which has been the case through much of the pandemic, we are likely to again see at least some increase in rates, particularly as the cooling weather moves groups and gatherings indoors where transmission risk is higher and recent studies are showing a waning efficacy of the vaccines over time.

With all this, TAG continues to recommend that businesses retain all protections that are in place: having those who are sick stay home, conducting wellness checks, requiring masking, and encouraging vaccination.

Doing all you can to encourage vaccines has increased in importance with the publishing of the OSHA ETS. Although it is still being challenged, and will likely end up in a circuit and/or Supreme Court, you need to keep moving toward compliance, assuming that the January 4 date will hold.

Risk Matrix:

This week, the number of states with a TPR >10% and case rate >25 cases/100K has dropped from 11 to 10. However, the following four states continue to report high TPRs and high case rates (remaining in the top 4 spots):

  • South Dakota – TPR has risen from 17% to 19%  w/ case rate risen from 35 cases/100K to 41 cases/100K.
  • Idaho – TPR dropped from 16% to 14% and case rate at 40 cases/100K
  • Montana – TPR decreased from 15% to 13%, case rate has decreased this week from 71 cases/100K to 62 cases/100K
  • Nebraska – TPR remains at 13%, case rate rose from 30 cases/100K to 40 cases/100K.

Table 1.

Figure 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

In Case You Missed It

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the stay of the OSHA ETS, the Pfizer antiviral, and a Science vaccine efficacy study. Read more here.
  • On Saturday, a federal appeals court issued a stay of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private companies. In the brief order temporarily blocking the new vaccine rules and OSHA ETS, a three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the petitioners in the case — Republican-led states and private businesses — “give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.” The court said it would expedite the case.
  • According to a Pfizer press release, its investigational novel COVID-19 oral antiviral candidate, PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir) was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to the placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19. In the overall study population through Day 28, no deaths were reported in patients who received PAXLOVID™ as compared to 10 deaths in patients who received placebo. Pfizer plans to submit the data as part of its ongoing rolling submission to the U.S. FDA for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) as soon as possible.
  • As detailed in CIDRAP, a study published in Science evaluating the effectiveness of the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines showed that from February to October 2021, overall vaccine effectiveness fell from 87.9% to 48.1%, with the steepest decline in recipients of the J&J vaccine, which dropped from 86.4% to 13.1%, followed by Moderna (89.2% to 58.0%), and Pfizer (86.9% to 43.3%). While breakthrough infection increased the risk of COVID-19 death, vaccination still protected against death in patients infected amid the Delta surge.
  • Global cases of COVID-19 now exceed 250 million infections. In this time, there is a resurgence surge of the Delta variant in Europe. WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove has said that the “virus activity is rising in places where it shouldn’t be—in countries with ample vaccine and tools to fight the pandemic.”
  • This Monday, November 08, was the first day that the U.S. lifted its COVID-19 travel ban. The U.S. will now allow nonessential travel through air and land if the individual can “prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 and can demonstrate a recent negative test for the virus. The United States will recognize full vaccination with any of the vaccines approved for use by the World Health Organization. Negative tests will need to have been procured within 72 hours of a flight or crossing into the United States.”
  • Evictions are rising in the U.S., in “communities across the country, especially those where the distribution of federal rental assistance has been slow, and where tenants have few protections.” It is likely that evictions will be underrepresented and the numbers will be undercounted.
  • China continues to drive for “zero COVID”; in this case, while it has over 900 current cases around the country, China will continue to push for zero cases completely. It has been postulated that China will continue to push for zero cases (unlike many other countries that are hoping to ‘live with it’). Although they have a high vaccination rate, their vaccines may not be as effective as new mRNA vaccines.
  • Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a rapid diagnostic test for SARS-COV-2 using CRISPR-technologies called SENSR (sensitive enzymatic nucleic acid sequence reporter).


Flu Vaccine Update

  • The H5N1 avian flu outbreak continues to spread across Europe, and now into South Korea. It is possible that the outbreak will continue as migration routes expand (CIDRAP).
  • The CDC is reporting that although “seasonal influenza activity […] remains low”, detection of influenza has increased slightly in the last few weeks with 0.2% of clinical labs coming back positive. Two CDC jurisdictions, specifically New Mexico and D.C. (District of Columbia) are seeing moderate flu activity (higher than the remainder of the country).
  • The WHO is reporting that although influenza activity remains low, globally, it is starting to increase slightly, too. Indeed, Influenza B/Victoria lineage is dominant (as reported last week).

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