- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we emphasize the importance of monitoring symptoms as the rise of COVID-19, flu, or other respiratory illnesses begins into the winter months. Read more below.
- The FDA has expanded the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine boosters, recommending and “authorizing use of a single booster dose for all individuals 18 years of age and older after completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.” The CDC has also recommended that anyone over 18 years and older, “who received Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may get a booster.”
- Many Asian countries, except for China, are slowly opening up their borders to vaccinated travelers. Singapore, South Korea, and Cambodia are opening their countries. Myanmar and the Philippines will also be opening up to travelers, too. Visitors will be allowed to visit some places in Vietnam. India has also opened up its borders while Indonesia and Thailand have had their borders open since October (NYT). Similarly, what was once slow-start vaccination rates, vaccination rates in some Asian countries are rising very quickly (AP News).
- Canada has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old (NYT).
- A recent study through University of Zurich, and published in Newswise, has found that, “another component that contributes to SARS-CoV-2 immunity – previous antibody responses to other, harmless coronaviruses.” In fact, the head of the Institute of Medical Virology at UZH, Alexandra Trokla discussed that “People who have had strong immune responses to other human coronaviruses also have some protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” By developing a special assay that analyzed antibody levels against other human coronaviruses, the research found that “people who caught SARS-CoV-2 had lower levels of antibodies against coronaviruses that cause common colds compared to uninfected people. In addition, people with high levels of antibodies against harmless coronaviruses were less likely to have been hospitalized after catching SARS-CoV-2.”
- The New Yorker has delved deeper into an article discussing the positive impacts and “startling” effectiveness of the COVID pills against COVID-19 when taken in time. Developed around the anti-viral molecule, NHC/EIDD-2801, they found that such a molecule was potent against multiple coronaviruses.
- Protests are happening across Europe as new COVID-19 measures are being enacted and enforced (CIDRAP).
- CIDRAP reports on two of CDC’s most recent MMWRs which have found that pregnant women infected with COVID-19 – more specifically with the Delta variant – had “nearly double the risk of stillbirth” while the other study found maternal death to be above five times the normal rate.
- The WHO is urging vigilance against the H5N6 avian flu as human cases rise (25 in China, and 1 in Laos) (CIDRAP).
- This week, the CDC reports that “Seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains low, but the number of influenza virus detections reported by clinical and public health laboratories and the percent of patient visits for influenza-like illness has increased in recent weeks.” However, New Mexico is experiencing a high/very high influenza activity while Georgia’s influenza activity is now at moderate activity. Additionally, “[t]he majority of viruses detected are A(H3N2). More than 90% are among children and young adults aged 5-24 years.”
- Around the world, the WHO reports that “influenza activity remained at lower levels than expected for this time of the year” with influenza B viruses remaining predominant.
- The USDA is investing $32M “in grants awarded to 167 meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities to support expanded capacity and efficiency through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program.” Additionally, they have committed to supporting the meat and poultry sectors to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recommendations for Industry
Triad of Trends Compels Double-Down on Symptom Monitoring
Influenza cases are rising on college campuses. COVID-19 cases are rising in European countries. And family and friends will be gathering across the U.S. to celebrate Thanksgiving this week. With students generally comprising at least a percentage of the workforce, the U.S. COVID-19 trends tending to follow those of Europe, and vaccination rates still well below population immunity levels, the combination provides strong rationale for businesses to double down on symptom monitoring when employees return from the holiday.
In addition to the similarity of symptoms between COVID-19, flu, and other respiratory illnesses making it difficult to know which disease a worker has until he or she is tested, either disease can quickly spread among your workers to further your likely already-reduced workforce. So, TAG recommends that businesses continue monitoring the workforce and ensure anyone who does have symptoms stay home, be tested, then follow CDC guidelines for return to work based on the results.
In Case You Missed It
- In Thursday’s Recommendations for Industry, we responded to employer questions on the OSHA ETS. Read more here.
- The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, based out of Cincinnati, was selected via lottery by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to hear legal challenges to the OSHA ETS issued on November 5. A three-judge panel from the Sixth Circuit will now be randomly assigned to hear the legal challenges to the OSHA ETS. It is almost assured that the Biden Administration and OSHA will ask the Sixth Circuit Panel to review and repeal the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ stay of the OSHA ETS.
- New global study shows mask-wearing is the single most effective public health measure at tackling COVID-19, reducing incidence by 53%, the first global study of its kind shows. (Study published in BMJ). Researchers said results highlight the need to continue with face coverings, social distancing, and handwashing alongside vaccine programs
- As temperatures drop and coronavirus infections spike across Europe, some countries are introducing increasingly targeted restrictions against the unvaccinated. The World Health Organization warned that Europe was once again the epicenter of the pandemic and that half a million people on the continent could die from COVID-19 in the next few months. Facing a 134 percent increase in cases in the last two weeks, the Austrian government cracked down on its unvaccinated population over the age of 12, restricting their movement to traveling for work, school, buying groceries, and medical care.
- Health and Human Services withdrew a policy that directed FDA not to enforce premarket review requirements for laboratory-developed tests (LDTs). FDA also updated its policies regarding tests, including LDTs, currently being offered prior to or without authorization, and policies regarding the types of tests on which the FDA intends to focus its review. Moving forward, the FDA generally intends to focus its review on EUA requests for at-home and point-of-care (POC) diagnostic tests; certain high-volume, lab-based molecular diagnostic tests and home collection kits; certain lab-based and POC high volume antibody tests; and tests for which the request is from, or supported by, a U.S. government stakeholder. FDA also took several actions aimed at further increasing access to accurate and reliable tests that can be performed at home or in places like doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms without having to be sent to a central lab for testing.
- 6 million American children ages 5 to 11 have gotten their first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, meaning 10% of that age group will have started the two-dose series in the first 10 days the vaccines have been available.
- New research from the Mayo Clinic shows monoclonal antibodies reduce the risk of hospitalization by 77% in 1,395 patients who had breakthrough COVID-19 infections. The research was published yesterday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. More than two-thirds of the breakthrough infections—71.8%—occurred after June 2021, when the Delta (B1617. 2) variant was the dominant strain in the Midwest, where the study was conducted. The rate of hospitalization was 2.7% among patients treated with monoclonal antibodies, compared with 10.7% among those who did not receive therapy.