Delta Wave Continues in U.S.; Be Sure Handwashing is Included in Protective Measures

Key Points

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the continuing wave of the Delta variant and the importance of including handwashing in protective measures. Read more below.
  • The U.S. Senate has approved and passed the bill to overturn Biden’s vaccine mandate (Reuters).
  • The FDA has updated its COVID-19 Tests page with updates on different mutations including that for the Omicron variant. There are a few tests currently being used that may “fail to detect the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant” due to the variant’s mutations. Check this site and check with your testing provider.
  • As of today, the Omicron variant has been detected in at least 57 countries. While Omicron has been identified in at least 20 US states, Delta is still the dominant variant in the U.S. and continues to fuel the COVID-19 surge (especially in states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio) (CIDRAP-1). In a few early studies, there is increasing evidence that the Omicron variant has significant immune escape in vaccinated individuals (CIDRAP-2).
  • The WHO is encouraging those “with health issues or inactivated vaccine” to get a COVID-19 booster dose “to protect against waning immunity” (Reuters). A recent early study through Pfizer also found that those “who have received a booster shot might be better protected” (NYT). However, the company plans to develop a vaccine to neutralize the Omicron variant by March 2022. Counter to this, there are medical individuals, including the WHO’s chief scientist, who believe that “booster doses are probably not the solution” in the long run (CIDRAP).
  • A pre-Omicron study published in New England Journal of Medicine in Israel found that individuals who received a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, “at least 5 months after [their] second dose,” have 90% lower mortality (death) than those who did not receive a booster.
  • In Europe, UK cases of the Omicron variant are doubling every 2-3 days (CNBC). In Germany, protests against COVID-19 restrictions are increasing (France 24), yet Germany has also hit its highest number of daily cases since February 2021 (CNN). In South Africa, Omicron cases in children are rising, increasing suspicion that “COVID positivity rates in the community settings are very, very high at the moment and increasing” (NYT).


Public Health/Food Safety:

  • Recently published in JAMA, a new study finds (through cohort studies) that there is “no association […] found between an increase in seafood consumption of 1 oz equivalent per day and all-cause and [cardio-vascular disease (CVD)-related] mortality. In addition, blood mercury level was not associated with all-cause or CVD-related mortality.” This means that “environmental mercury exposure at the currently low to moderate level and seafood consumption were not associated with risk of all-cause or CVD-related mortality.”
  • This week, the CDC “announced a major initiative to bolster the global response to antimicrobial resistance.” The CDC awarded $22M to 28 organizations in over 50 countries to establish capacities that don’t exist or need to be further developed. “Focus on preventing and limiting the spread of drug-resistant infections in healthcare settings, building laboratory capacity to detect and understand emerging resistant organisms in the community and the environment, and developing methods to identify and respond to resistant pathogens more quickly.” (CIDRAP).
  • Rhode Island has confirmed its “first Jamestown Canyon virus case in years.” Jamestown Canyon virus is a mosquito-borne disease that is spread primarily between deer and mosquitoes. “The RIDOH also reported its second West Nile virus case of the year. Connecticut has confirmed 6 West Nile cases in people this year, and Massachusetts has reported 10.” (CIDRAP).
  • China has reported its first fatal H5N6 avian flu infection (CIDRAP).

Recommendations for Industry

Delta Wave Continues in U.S.; Be Sure Handwashing is Included in Protective Measures

TAG’s weekly COVID-19 risk matrix is showing undesirable upward trends in case and transmission rates in nearly all the states across the U.S. The upward trend, however, may be at least somewhat making up for the downward trend during the Thanksgiving holiday week, with fewer tests conducted during the holiday. With the increases also being attributed to the Delta variant (not the newly detected Omicron), TAG also sees the wave as Delta working its way across the US.

What all this continues to say is that we need to continue implementing all protective practices. In addition to wellness checks, masking, and distancing, don’t forget the importance of regular handwashing and keeping the hands away from nose and mouth. In addition to protecting from COVID transmission, handwashing is critical for reducing foodborne-illness transmission, including that of norovirus. While TAG does not see a need to re-introduce extensive measures (e.g., stopping every 1/2 hour to wash hands), maintaining regular hygienic practices of washing hands whenever using the restroom, smoking, removing/donning gloves, etc., is important for overall food and employee safety.


Risk Matrix:

An increasing number of states have Test Positive Rates (TPR) >10% and case rates >25 cases/100K (20 states) and TPR <10% but case rates >25 cases/100K (16 states). This puts the majority of states having case rates >25 cases/100K. Case rates have risen across the country.

Table 1.

Figure 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

In Case You Missed It

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the Omicron variant and what is beginning to be understood. Read more here.
  • The CDC is currently recommending Americans avoid travel to France, Jordan, and Portugal as these countries have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases (The Hill). Additionally, the CDC has added other destinations to Level 4 travel risk including Andorra, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, and Tanzania to the list. This is added to other “very high” risk travel places, including: Barbados, Cayman Islands, Malaysia, Singapore, and Turkey. (CNN)
  • For those traveling into the U.S., stricter requirements are now being enforced including providing “proof of a negative coronavirus test taken no more than a day before [one’s] flight.” (NYT)
  • As we all come together for the holidays, the CDC is increasing its push for at-home testing ahead of indoor gatherings. (ABC New York)
  • Regarding the Omicron Variant:
    • Anthony Fauci says that current, though preliminary, information is encouraging regarding the omicron variant, including that “Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly” and that the variant “does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it.” (AP News).
    • In the U.S., the Delta variant remains dominant (AP News 2), but the Omicron variant has been detected in at least 17 states (CIDRAP).
    • The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has provided an epidemiological update of the Omicron variant in Europe; “a total of 212 confirmed cases” have been identified in the EU/EEA.
    • As there is increasing conversation about molnupiravir, there is increasing hope that upcoming COVID-19 pills may offer hope for the forthcoming Omicron variant. Molnupiravir was developed through Merck; and Pfizer is developing an antiviral pill that has demonstrated 85% efficacy “when taken within five days of the start of symptoms.” (NYT)
    • Salim Abdool Karim, a South African epidemiologist discusses a potential concern of the Omicron variant in that, while cases may be easily diagnosed and treated, there is increasing evidence that reinfection may be likely. In fact, their observed ratio of infections to reinfections are about 2.4. What might this mean? Perhaps natural past infection is not as protective. Similarly, while outbreak cases have been identified, all this is based on preliminary evidence. (Video from CNN)
  • On Vaccines:
    • New York City will become the first U.S. city to mandate vaccinations for private companies. However, the incoming mayor has stated that it may not be enforced. (CBS New York)
    • A recently published study in The Lancet has found that “most COVID vaccines will work as boosters.” Read the New York Times report here.
    • A UK study tested vaccine combinations (including mixing Pfizer, AstraZeneca vaccines with Moderna) on over 1,000 individuals. The study found that those who had a mix of vaccines “had a better immune response when they receive a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech shots followed by Moderna nine weeks later.” Read SCMP’s summary or see the News Release from the UK research. The findings are similar to those of other previous studies.
  • Recent research has found that, “Blood pressure control worsened in both men and women with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in 2020.” As reported in The American Heart Association citing Dr. Luke Laffin, the co-director of Cleveland Clinic, “At the start of the pandemic, most people were not taking good care of themselves. Increases in blood pressure were likely related to changes in eating habits, increased alcohol consumption, less physical activity, decreased medication adherence, more emotional stress and poor sleep.” In fact, “Higher increases in blood pressure measures were seen among women […] older participants, […] and younger participants.” Resulting from this study, researchers also stress that it is imperative that we also be “mindful of chronic health conditions [including] blood pressure and [other] chronic medical conditions.” Read it on CIDRAP here.
  • Although China continues to push for zero-COVID and is now encouraging all younger individuals to be inoculated, calling them “little inoculated warriors” (through a recent campaign), there is starting to be some push-back, primarily from parents. (NYT)
  • Fun fact of the day: “omicron” is among 2021’s most mispronounced words (AP News).



  • 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.” Additionally (and of concern), “the percent of outpatient visits for respiratory illness has trended upward.” In the U.S., it seems that influenza A is the majority-identified influenza virus.
  • Although it was thought that the Yamagata lineage of Influenza B may have been eradicated with COVID (discussed a few weeks ago), it seems that is no longer the case, as there have been a few influenza B Yamagata lineage cases in the U.S.
  • New Mexico continues to experience high/very high influenza activity while Georgia, and now also Mississippi’s, influenza activities are at moderate activity.
  • Around the world, the WHO reports that “[g]lobally influenza activity remains low but in comparison with last year a slight increase in influenza detections is noticed.” As in the previous weeks, influenza B viruses remain predominant.
  • According to Healthline, flu activity is approximately 192 percent higher than it was this time last year, but still generally low compared with pre-pandemic flu seasons. Certain regions have seen more flu activity in recent weeks, with Southern regions seeing the greatest flu activity.



Public Health:

  • A recent report from the UN has found that COVID contributed to 69,000 malaria deaths, “though ‘doomsday scenario’ averted.” Due to COVID-19, “moderate disruptions in the delivery of malaria services contributed to 14 million malaria cases and 69,000 deaths.” Of this, 2/3 of additional malaria deaths “were due to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic.”
  • The Salmonella Thompson outbreak in seafood has now come to a conclusion (FSN).
  • As reported by Food Safety News, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has met to discuss next steps and adopt guidelines for “monitoring and surveillance of foodborne antimicrobial resistance and on front-of-pack nutrition labeling to help consumers understand the nutritional value of food.” Additionally, “Standards were adopted for dried oregano, dried or dehydrated ginger, cloves, and dried basil. Plans for new work included developing texts for small cardamom, turmeric and spices in the form of dried fruits and berries. Efforts are ongoing on a standard for saffron, dried chili peppers and paprika.”
  • According to a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, the “‘disastrous’ way in which plastic is used in farming across the world is threatening food safety and potentially human health” in that its contribution to microplastic pollution in soils and oceans is incredibly high. In fact, there is “‘irrefutable’ evidence of the need for better management of the millions of tonnes of plastics used in the food and farming system each year” as much of the single-use plastic is “buried, burned or lost after use.” To this end, there is also an increasing demand for agricultural plastics. Read the news report on Guardian or see the UN report here.