COVID Protections: Keep on Keeping on

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss TAG’s weekly matrix and recommendations for close contact, but vaccinated, workers who have no symptoms. Read more below.
  • In order to increase over-the-counter COVID-19 test access, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health are “investing $70 million from the American Rescue Plan to help bring more high-quality, at-home tests onto the market in the U.S. in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)” while also establishing a new Independent Test Program (ITAP). The ITAP “will establish an accelerated pathway to support FDA evaluation of tests with potential for large-scale manufacturing” and will “help identify manufacturers of high-quality tests and encourage them to bring those tests to the U.S. market, increasing options for people and overall supply and potentially lowering costs.” Additionally, the FDA will “further streamlin[e] the regulatory pathway for manufacturers developing over-the-counter at-home tests.”
  • This year’s March Madness 2021 led to an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks in communities surrounding “the 64 universities that competed in the mid-March 2021 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.” This has been attributed to many celebrations as well as the low vaccination rates among young people as vaccinations had not yet been prioritized for younger individuals.
  • On Tuesday, the CDC’s updated guidelines now proclaim that “immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.” For those “over 18 who are ‘moderately to severely immunocompromised’ and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC” since their third COVID-19 vaccine shot is technically an “additional dose” to their normal set of shots.
  • Merck has announced that it will share the recipe for its COVID-19 anti-viral pill, monupiravir, to 105 developing nations, thus allowing for, and expanding much-needed support to many African and Asian countries.
  • Puerto Rico currently leads the U.S. in COVID-19 vaccination rates; while the U.S.’ national average of fully vaccinated is 57%, Puerto Rico has achieved over 73% full vaccination across the island. How? Puerto Rico has found that “engaging people on their values, beliefs or identities rather than allowing them to contribute to polarization [while also] fostering solidarity in the public health effort” has allowed them to carry out vaccinations. In this, Puerto Rico has “differentiated strategies to reach different audiences and understand what drives them to get vaccinated or not” allowing for broad coalitions to form and work together.
  • A recent Atlantic article highlights the four measures Germany has instilled that are “helping Germany Beat COVID” including: 1) “Ensuring that mass events don’t facilitate mass transmission”; 2) creating a system in which testing is not only easily facilitated but also economical and cheap; 3) disallowing cloth masks, instead utilizing FFP2 masks (and similar KN9-type masks) in public spaces; and 4) implementing effective contact tracing.
  • The Brazilian Senate committee has now recommended that Brazil’s President Bolsonaro face “a series of criminal indictments for actions and omissions related to the world’s second highest COVID-19 death toll.”


Public Health & Food Safety

  • The FDA has updated and expanded the Salmonella-associated onion recall to even more brands. Please take a look at the website and also the below list for further information:
    • Big Bull
    • Peak Fresh Produce
    • Sierra Madre
    • Markon First Crop.
    • Markon Essentials
    • Rio Blue
    • ProSource
    • Rio Valley
    • Sysco Imperial
    • Potandon Produce L.L.C
    • HelloFresh
    • EveryPlate
  • The FDA and STOP Foodborne Illness will collaborate on a food safety culture webinar series, “Collaborating on Culture in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety” that will begin on Thursday November 4 at 10:30 AM. For more information see the Food Safety News website and to register, click here.

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Recommendations for Industry

COVID Protections: Keep on Keeping on

As shown in our weekly matrix (below), the trend toward decreasing COVID-19 cases is continuing, but there also continue to be holdouts. It seems that some states are “stuck” at various levels – some high, some not-so-high – but just not decreasing.

What it shows, overall, is that we are still in the midst of COVID.  We’re on a fairly good trajectory, but there is still a lot of COVID around. If we continue to follow the path of the UK – which has been the general trend thus far, there is a chance that the U.S. will get stuck at levels of moderate rates of transmission for at least a while yet.

For these reasons, TAG continues to recommend businesses keep doing what you’ve been doing and not relax your guard. We have had some questions about whether a vaccinated employee who comes in close contact with an infected person but shows no symptoms themselves should go to work or stay out. Our response is to continue to follow CDC guidance that the person come to work, staying masked, as long as they have no symptoms, then get tested at 5 to 7 days following exposure. If the test comes back positive or they show symptoms at any time, they should then quarantine.

Risk Matrix:

As we have seen over the past few weeks, things are looking upwards throughout the U.S. Even fewer states have case rates >25 cases/100K; however, Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota still see the higher Test Positive Rates at 18% and 17%, respectively.

Table 1.

Figure 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

In Case You Missed It

Flu Status:

  • WHO:
    • Globally, despite continued or even increased testing in some countries, influenza activity remained at lower levels than expected for this time of the year.
    • In the temperate zones of the southern hemisphere, influenza activity remained at inter-seasonal levels, although a slight increase in influenza A and B detections was reported from South Africa.
    • Worldwide, influenza B (Victoria) viruses predominated.
  • CDC:
    • The Key Update for Week 41 (ending October 16, 2021) finds “seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains low.” Only 0.1% of all specimens tested this week were positive, with an almost even split of Influenza A (47%) and B (53%).

Public Health & Food Safety