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Is the US in a Fourth Wave of COVID?

Key Points:

Recommendations for Industry

Is the US in a Fourth Wave of COVID?

  1. I’ve seen some reports saying we are in a fourth wave of COVID, others saying we are not. Where does TAG stand?
  2. . As we’ve been discussing in previous newsletters, there are currently regional outbreaks occurring in the US (in the Midwest, Northeast, and Florida). The increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 and other variants drives these increases in cases, and it’s likely that areas of the US wwhere cases are currently will see their own surges in the coming weeks.  Several factors, including increasing vaccination rates and improving weather so that people can spend more times outdoors in the North, should help to temper this fourth wave.  We won’t experience the simultaneous nationwide spike in cases we saw during and after the holidays in December and January.  COVID fatigue is also driving transmission as the promise of vaccines and a return to “normal” is leading to a premature relaxation of behaviors.  Based on current vaccination rates, and those who have been naturally infected, the level of immunity in the US may be somewhere around 60% of the population.  Nevertheless, that leaves over 130,000,000 Americans still susceptible to a highly contagious variant of COVID and we’ll need 70-85% of the population immune before we see a consistent reduction in case rates.  The end of the race is near, but there’s still some distance before the finish line.

Given all that, there is some good news for those hoping to begin backing down on some of the COVID protections – that is, the CDC’s new guidance that extra sanitation of surfaces is not necessary for fighting COVID. Rather, general, regular cleaning sanitation is sufficient. TAG has long held that the primary transmission route of COVID-19 is respiratory, i.e., aerosol transmission of droplets from person to person. This new guidance recognizes that a reduction in intensive cleaning and sanitizing is now appropriate – while maintaining all other protections of masks, distancing, and handwashing.  There is anecdotal evidence that during the pandemic, we’ve seen a reduction in foodborne illnesses in the US.  While the cause is likely multifactorial (fewer people eating in restaurants, social distancing, etc.), some level of increased sanitation in foodservice may be a practice that companies want to consider as it helps reduce the risk of norovirus and other foodborne pathogens.

In Case You Missed It

  • In Wednesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed TAG’s risk matrix and the current status of COVID-19 transmission. [Read More Here]
  • The CDC has updated its guidance for “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home”; there is focus on what to do for:
    • Cleaning regularly
    • Cleaning and disinfecting the home when someone is sick
    • Cleaning and disinfecting bedrooms and bathrooms when someone is sick
    • Cleaning and disinfecting different types of surfaces
  • COVID-19 cases and new surges are erupting throughout the world; additionally, many locations (and countries) are re-entering lockdowns due to rising cases. To learn more about what’s happening regionally, check out this recent CIDRAP perspective.
  • Moderna is aiming to enroll over 200 adults in Seattle to test its new COVID-19 vaccine designed to protect against the B1351 COVID-19 variant.
  • Australia and New Zealand are beginning to start quarantine-free travel!
  • Following is a little more information on the “double-mutant” COVID-19 variant that was first identified in India and has now also been found in California: The variant has two different mutations, E484Q and L452R, that show similarities to other variants we have seen (except combined)! The former mutation shares a similar mutation to the ones identified in the P1 and B1351 variants in which the spike protein may be mutated; the latter mutation shares similarities with a COVID-19 mutant also identified in California in which the spike protein may bind better to cells, “thereby increasing its infectivity.” More is needed to be studied about this new “double-mutant” COVID-19 variant. Aljazeera breaks down this information here.
  • In Monday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the vaccine impact on COVID-19 testing and CDC’s new travel guidance for those who are fully [Read More Here]
  • The CDC has released new guidelines for travel for fully vaccinated individuals within the U.S.
    • With this new guidance, it’s good to remember that in the U.S. a fully vaccinated person is one that has waited two weeks after their second-dose of a 2-dose vaccine (e.g. Pfizer or Moderna) or has waited 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine (e.g. J&J vaccine).
  • This week is National Public Health Week. This year’s theme is “Building Bridges to Better Health” to make “communities safe and health is public health’s top priority”.
  • Around the world, COVID-19 is resurging and creating new waves. See news from Kenya, India, and/or Europe.
  • The WHO has released a scientific brief on “Modes of Transmission of virus causing COVID-19: implications for IPC precaution recommendations.” The conclusions of this report find, “Based on the available evidence, including the recent publications mentioned above, WHO continues to recommend droplet and contact precautions for those people caring for COVID-19 patients. WHO continues to recommend airborne precautions for circumstances and settings in which aerosol generating procedures and support treatment are performed, according to risk assessment.”
  • Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine delays are forthcoming due to factory mix-up.
  • An ongoing Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial has found two things: there is protection for at least six months post 2nd dose vaccination [CNN]; there is potential efficacy against the B1351 COVID-19 variant [NBC News].
  • The WHO has criticized vaccine rollout in Europe as being “unacceptably slow.” This, as countries throughout Europe are re-entering another lock-down phase.
  • The FDA has released information on the impact of a few COVID-19 tests by SARS-CoV-2 variants. TAG will discuss this more today. There are 4 tests that the FDA has noted as potentially being impacted by the variants.

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