COVID Case Rates Following Predictable Pattern

Key Points:

Public Health & Food Safety:

  • The FDA released its 2021 “Year-In-Review” covering topics of response to COVID-19, diversity and equity in public health, safer food, protecting public, and consumer safety and protection topics. Download the document here.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research is focusing on supporting onion producers (through research) to solve the problem of Salmonella contamination of bulb onions. 

Recommendations for Industry

COVID Case Rates Following Predictable Pattern

The current trajectory of COVID case rates is following TAG’s predicted pattern, as it tracks a path similar to that of the UK –  with areas of the US hitting sharp spikes from Omicron then seeing them level off. With the rise and fall beginning in the East and moving westward, the data we’re seeing in TAG’s weekly COVID matrix is translating to real world for businesses.

So, we are weathering our way through Omicron, with some areas coming out of it already, and businesses employing varying tactics to deal with both the rise and fall. One example is that of Starbucks,  which has ditched its plan to require employee vaccination. On the other hand, hospitals remain under a vaccination mandate, though there is a lot of flexibility in terms of testing.

Overall, the US is currently in a period of transition. COVID is following a predictable pattern and we’re seeing some light, but we are not yet out of the tunnel.

Risk Matrix The Omicron wave is slowly moving across the U.S. from East to West. This is also semi-evidenced in this week’s risk matrix. While case rates are still high, as are Test Positive Rates (TPRs) and Effective Rates of Transmission (Rts), they are decreasing for some areas like: DC, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. Cases elsewhere continue to rise dramatically.

In case you missed it

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the business management of COVID’s next wave … whatever that may be. Read more here.
  • 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.