Build Your Systems for COVID’s Next Wave

Key Points:

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the business management of COVID’s next wave … whatever that may be. Read more below.
  • As you’ve most likely heard, the Supreme Court has halted the COVID-19 vaccine rule for U.S. businesses. (AP News).
  • Canada approves of Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill to be used “for adult patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are also at high risk of becoming more seriously ill. Health Canada did not authorize it for use on teenagers or on patients who are already hospitalized because of COVID-19.”
  • While Omicron cases may be peaking in some U.S. states (specifically in the Northeast), COVID-19 is overwhelming hospitals (NYT). In fact, in about 24 states, “At least 80 percent of staffed hospital beds [are] occupied” (NYT2).  COVID-19 deaths and cases are also rising through U.S. nursing homes, despite COVID-19 shots and boosters, specifically as “the sick and elderly are uniquely vulnerable to the virus” (AP News). Additionally, the rise in COVID-19 cases are still expanding throughout other parts of the country (CNN). 
  • Starting tomorrow (Wednesday, Jan 19), Americans can order free, rapid at-home tests. You can request tests from; however, it is likely the tests may take about a week to ship (NYT).
  • In Europe, masking rules are starting to tighten up again. For example, the Italian government announced that FFP2 masks “must be worn on public transport, including planes, trains, ferries and subways.” In other parts of Europe, mask mandates for indoor and outdoor settings are also being reset, reinstated, or further reinforced (AP News). For individuals who are unvaccinated, things have become more complicated as they are being excluded from everyday life in some areas (Washington Post).
  • In South America, health networks are becoming severely impacted by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant (Al Jazeera).


  • Although influenza activity in the U.S. declined slightly this past week, cases remain elevated and this is expected to continue. The majority of cases detected are identified as Influenza A (H3N2). However,  in some parts of the US (e.g., Indiana, Pennsylvania), about 10% of cases are Type B; 14 jurisdictions are experiencing moderate activity while 21 are experiencing high or very high activity.
  • According to the WHO, “Globally, influenza activity remains low but continued to increase especially in the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere. In several countries influenza activity reached the levels seen this time of year in pre-COVID-19 period.” Additionally, the WHO warns that “countries are recommended to prepare for cocirculation of influenza and SARS-CoV-2” while encouraging vaccination campaigns. However, flu rates in Japan remain low and similar to last season, likely due to continuing COVID measures in place.
  • Simultaneously, the WHO warns against treating COVID-19 as an endemic illness like flu, rather than as a pandemic, saying the spread of the Omicron variant has not yet stabilized.

Public Health & Food Safety:

  • A recent norovirus outbreak traced its transmission back to food packaging, illustrating the high persistence of this virus.
  • African swine fever has been discovered in northern Italy, prompting concerns and fears regarding how this might impact Italy’s pork industry. Various countries, including China, Japan, Taiwan, and Kuwait “have already suspended imports on Italian pork” while Switzerland has imposed new restrictions.
  • BusinessWire has published findings from a new report on Consumer’s Sustainability Sentiments for retailers. Some findings include that “two-thirds of consumers say they would pay more for sustainable products” even though “two-thirds of retailers believe that consumers would not be willing to spend more for sustainable brands.” Additionally, about 75% of “consumer respondents value product sustainability over brand name.” Read more on the report. 

Recommendations for Industry

Build Your Systems for COVID’s Next Wave

With the Supreme Court ruling against the implementation of the OSHA ETS on COVID vaccinations/testing, businesses can now shift their focus from ETS compliance to infectious disease management. As TAG has discussed with several of its clients, taking the approach of building systems to prepare for and respond to the next surge, variant, or whatever else may come next. Additionally, there is likely to continue to be variation in symptoms and transmissibility between those who are vaccinated and not, so you will need to determine how to manage against that.

With the virus continuing to evolve, and new variants likely to arise, TAG also recommends that businesses not begin to think of COVID as endemic. It will eventually come to that, but we are not there yet. While we are seeing a peaking of Omicron in some areas of the US, we also are seeing high hospitalization and death rates that are overwhelming healthcare staff in many areas.

The best advice TAG can give is to continue all COVID protections and review and/or build your systems to prepare for whatever COVID may bring our way next. In late February, TAG will be holding a free, public webinar to discuss the potential future paths of COVID and how to be prepared. More information to follow!

In case you missed it

  • In last Thursday’s Recommendations for Industry, we reviewed new studies suggesting that flu shots, measles vaccines, and the common cold can cross-protect against COVID. Read more here.
  • A recently published study found that SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including induced abortion, cesarean sections, preterm birth and fetal growth restriction. It was not associated with risk for miscarriage, antepartum hemorrhage or stillbirth. The national cohort study used de-identified administrative claims data for 78,283 pregnancies with an estimated conception date before April 30, 2020, and pregnancy end after March 11, 2020, and used diagnostic and laboratory testing data to identify infected mothers.
  • Stating that Omicron is like a tidal wave moving from west to east on top of an earlier Delta variant surge, the WHO said Europe’s cases doubled over the past 2 weeks, becoming dominant in the western countries and now spreading in the Balkans. But Omicron may be headed for a rapid drop in Britain, US as scientists are seeing signals that the wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically. The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa. But there is still much uncertainty about how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold, as plateauing or ebbing is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. And weeks or months of overwhelmed hospitals still lie ahead even with a drop-off.
  • Europe is starting to think we should treat COVID as an endemic illness, like the flu. Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, is the latest leader to suggest it’s time to reevaluate COVID. Britain’s government has already told the public that it must “learn to live with the virus.”
  • The World Bank said the global economy is entering a slowdown due to threats from COVID-19 variants; rises in inflation, debt, and income inequality that threaten the recovery of emerging and developing countries; dissipating pent-up demand for products; and expiring fiscal and monetary supports.
  • Long term exposure to air pollution may heighten the risk of COVID infection suggests research published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine. The association was strongest for particulate matter, which showed an infection rate equating to an extra 294 cases/100,000 people a year.
  • In booster news, the Pfizer booster tied to fewer COVID cases in health workers – Israeli healthcare workers who received a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine had significantly lower rates of infection in the next 39 days, according to a single-center study in JAMA. Fourth COVID vaccine dose boosts immunity in kidney transplant patients producing a good antibody response in half of kidney transplant recipients who did not respond adequately after three doses, according to a study involving 92 transplant patients yesterday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Public Health & Food Safety:

4 responses to “Build Your Systems for COVID’s Next Wave”

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