- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the fluctuation in case rates. Read more below.
- At least 5 million people worldwide have died from Covid – though experts believe the total number is undoubtedly far higher. COVID-19 is responsible for more than five million confirmed deaths around the world –a loss that would wipe out almost the entire population of Melbourne, Australia, or most of the nation of Singapore. But experts say the real number could be as high as twice the reported figure, as many countries are unable to accurately record the number of people who have died from COVID-19, like India and African nations, and experts have questioned the veracity of data from other countries, like Russia.
- At the G20 leaders meeting in Rome this weekend, the group agreed on a goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the world's population by the middle of next year and at least 40% of the world's population by the end of this year. In its Rome Declaration, the group agreed to take steps to boost the global vaccine supply such as easing export rules, strengthening supply chains, and boosting global production capacity, calling on the private sector and multilateral groups to contribute to the efforts, and establishing a joint finance-health task force to improve global coordination and funding of pandemic preparedness measures.
- Oramed Pharmaceuticals won approval to run an initial clinical trial for its orally delivered COVID-19 vaccine candidate in South Africa, enrolling patients in Phase 1 of tests. A similar trial is planned in Israel and a Phase 2 trial in the US. While South Africa has hosted a number of COVID-19 vaccine trials, this would be the first oral treatment, surmounting some hurdles confronting Africa, such as the need for refrigeration, and help improve inoculation in the least-vaccinated continent.
- Fewer than 10% of African countries to hit key COVID-19 vaccination goal. Just five African countries, less than 10% of Africa’s 54 nations, are projected to hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40% of their people, unless efforts to accelerate the pace take off.
- After receiving its first emergency use authorization (EUA) from Indonesia, Novavax Inc expects regulators in India, the Philippines and elsewhere to decide on the vaccine within “weeks,” its chief executive said. The company also filed EUA applications to Canada and the European Medicines Agency, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is reviewing Novavax's regulatory filing.
- Cognitive impairment occurred relatively often within several months of patients having had COVID-19, according to results of a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Network Open. Examining data of 740 patients (mean age, 49 years; 63% women; mean time from COVID-19 diagnosis, 7.6 months) who survived COVID-19 and were treated in outpatient, ED, or inpatient hospital settings, results showed the most significant deficits occurred in processing speed (18%), executive functioning (16%), phonemic fluency (15%) and category fluency (20%), memory encoding (24%) and memory recall (23%). Findings suggest that a substantial proportion of patients may experience cognitive problems several months after COVID-19, which can contribute to significant functional disability.
- Thousands were gathered Sunday for Shanghai Disneyland’s Halloween party when suddenly the gates closed and health-care workers fully dressed in white protective suits descended on the site. The site had been ordered to shut its doors after a woman who visited Disneyland over the weekend tested positive Sunday for the coronavirus. Visitors were told they couldn’t leave until they got tested. Officials tested more than 30,000 people – all were negative.
- According to the CDC, as of this week, “seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains low,” with only 0.1% of clinical lab tests showing positive for influenza and only 1.8% of visits leading to influenza activity. This week, New Mexico was the only state to have higher flu rates than other jurisdictions.
- According to the WHO, globally, “despite continued or even increased testing for influenza in some countries, influenza activity remained at lower levels than expected for this time of the year.” As we discussed last week, it seems that “Worldwide, influenza B/Victoria lineage viruses” is currently dominant.
- On Monday, CDC reported two new U.S. human infections with influenza viruses that usually spread in pigs and not people. One of these variant influenza virus infections is the first to occur during the 2021-2022 flu reporting season, the other reported infection is the 11th infection that occurred during the 2020-2021 season. Variant virus infections occur rarely, and usually in the context of exposure to pigs when they happen. However, there have been a small proportion where the original source of exposure to a pig cannot be readily identified, meaning the possibility of limited human-to-human spread of a variant influenza virus cannot be ruled out. The virus may have passed from a pig to an intermediary person who then spread the virus to the patient in whom the virus was detected.
Recommendations for Industry
Case Rates Fluctuating Around the Globe
COVID-19 case rates are in fluctuation around the globe. With cases in much of the world continuing to decline, Europe is seeing an increase in infections with an 18% surge in the last week alone, and the former decline in the U.S. has flattened out into a sort of stasis. With some states continuing at high rates, and the U.S. typically following the UK trends – where cases have surged this fall, more so than in the rest of Europe, the U.S., or many other countries – it is wise for businesses to hold the line on worker protections. We’ve said it (many times) before, and we’ll likely say it (many times) again. But the fact is that the preventive strategies are helping to reduce COVID-19 transmission and are likely helping to keep influenza numbers low – as is shown in our Flu Status key points above.
On a related note, it is appearing that last week’s word on the street that the OSHA ETS would be published by end of week was a bit premature. The latest unofficial hearsay is that we will see it by this Thursday. That may or may not occur, but we are keeping a lookout for it and will bring you our analysis and perspective when it arrives.
In Case You Missed It
- In Thursday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed TAG’s weekly matrix and recommendations for close contact, but vaccinated, workers who have no symptoms. Read more here.
- 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
- Rio Valley
- Sysco Imperial
- Potandon Produce L.L.C
- 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.