CDC Map Showing Low COVID Levels Across 94% of U.S.

Key Points:

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss low COVID levels across much of the U.S. with some regional levels of BA.2.12. Read more below.
  • DOJ appeals federal ruling on transportation mask mandate. The Justice Department on Wednesday appealed a ruling by a federal judge that struck down the mask mandate for mass transportation, following a recommendation by the CDC. CDC stated that its continuing assessment is that “an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health” and that it would continue to monitor public health conditions to determine if the order remains necessary. “CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”
  • CDC advisers discuss future of COVID-19 booster shots. With Americans aged 50 and older now eligible to get a second booster of COVID-19 vaccine, CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) said some groups should consider getting a fourth dose of mRNA vaccine—a second booster—as soon as possible: the immunocompromised, those who live with the immunocompromised, and those at great risk for severe COVID-19. Those who have had COVID-19 within the last 3 months and older, but healthy, adults who want to wait until the fall to get a booster are likely okay to take a wait-and-see approach.
  • Study shows COVID-19 infection to offer similar immunity as vaccination. A US study of more than 121,000 participants published in JAMA Network Open found that pre-Omicron symptomatic COVID-19 infection in unvaccinated patients conferred a level of protection against subsequent infections on par with that of mRNA vaccines but longer-lasting. Previous COVID-19 was tied to protection of 85% against reinfection, 88% against hospitalization, and 83% against COVID-19 not requiring hospitalization. This protection remained stable with no waning up to 9 months after the initial illness. The findings, of course, do not suggest that infection is preferred over vaccination.
  • Air pollution may aggravate COVID symptoms raising risk of positive test. An observational JAMA Network Open study involving young adults in Sweden suggests that short-term exposure to even relatively low levels of air pollution is tied to a higher risk of later testing positive for COVID-19, likely by worsening symptoms in those already infected. The study authors said that the findings, when taken together with those of previous studies, suggest that short-term exposure to air pollution has a role in aggravating COVID-19 symptoms in those already infected rather than in aiding viral spread.
  • CDC Covid Community Map

Food Safety:

  • New NARMS report shows rising resistance in Salmonella, Campylobacter. The latest data from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Systems (NARMS) 2019 Integrated Summary showed that more than three fourths of the Salmonella isolates (78%) from humans were not resistant to any of the antibiotics tested, and that the overall level of resistance in humans remains relatively unchanged since 2018. However, the report found rising resistance to ciprofloxacin—one of the three antibiotics used to treat severe Salmonella infections. From 2018 to 2019, Salmonella with decreased susceptibility to ciprofloxacin increased from 9% to 11% in humans. NARMS data also show rising fluoroquinolone resistance in Campylobacter isolates. In humans, the proportion of ciprofloxacin-resistant Campylobacter isolates rose from 29% in 2018 to 34% in 2019 for Campylobacter jejuni and from 41% to 45% in C coli. Analysis of E coli isolates found increases in ceftriaxone resistance in sow cecal samples (3% in 2018 to 7% in 2019) and in retail pork (4% to 7%).

Recommendations for Industry

CDC Map Showing Low COVID Levels Across 94% of U.S.

As shown in the latest CDC COVID community map (above), the vast majority of the country (94.14%) is experiencing low COVID levels (green). The one prominent area of high levels (orange) can be seen in the CDC Nowcast map (below) to have a high rate of the newly detected BA.2.12 subvariant of Omicron. This variant appears to be about as transmissible as measles, so it may be an indicator that other areas of the U.S. also could see similar regional outbreaks.

Keeping an eye on your community levels and employee wellness continues to be the prime recommendation from TAG.

Risk Matrix:

In Case You Missed It:

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the dropping of the travel mask mandate. Read more here.
  • Declaring the COVID-19 travel mask mandate to be unlawful, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa said the mandate exceeded the authority granted to the CDC under federal public health law; that Congress had never clearly given the CDC the power to issue population-wide preventive public-health measures like the mask mandate. Because the CDC acted beyond its authority, “the court must hold unlawful and set aside the mask mandate as an agency action that is not in accordance with law,” Judge Mizelle wrote in a 59-page opinion. American, Delta, United, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit have all declared masks to be optional. Others likely to follow(NPR)
  • Officials Adopt New Message on Covid-19 Behaviors: It’s Your Call. Federal and local officials are now telling people to decide for themselves how best to protect against the virus. Health officials are leaving it up to people to assess if they need booster shots, whether to wear a mask and how long to isolate after a positive test. Businesses, schools and other entities are scaling back specific guidelines as they prepare for a return to normal. However, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the new White House Covid-19 response coordinator, is recommending that Americans over 60 get a second booster, citing “pretty compelling” new data from Israel indicating that a fourth shot significantly reduced infections and deaths among older people there.
  • The pandemic wave of a tight labor market with a burst of job-switching now shows signs of easing now and economists say that, apart from a one-off rise in wages, these workers may not end up much better off than before. But quit rates in leisure and hospitality have dropped to 5.6% in February 2022 from 5.9% in November 2021, which suggests demand for workers has eased. In concert with that, wage growth is moderating.
  • Last Thursday FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test that detects chemical compounds in breath samples associated with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage. The test can be performed where the patient specimen is both collected and analyzed under the supervision of a health care provider, and can provide results in less than three minutes. FDA said the device was 91.2% accurate at identifying positive test samples and 99.3% accurate at identifying negative test samples
  • The World Health Organization calculation of the global death toll from the pandemic has found that vastly more people died than previously believed — a total of about 15 million by the end of 2021, more than double the official total of 6 million reported by countries individually. Its release has been delayed for months because of objections from India, which disputes the calculation that more than a third of the additional 9 million deaths are estimated to have occurred there.
  • Global COVID
  • U.S. Northeastern cities have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases – but increased immunization, low hospitalization rates and increasing resources against infection may temper calls for alarm. “The rise does not concern me because it is occurring in the context of a highly immune population that has access to antivirals and monoclonal antibodies,” said Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Cases are increasingly decoupled from hospitalizations. The metric to follow is hospitalizations as a percent of hospital capacity.”
  • The WHO is tracking a few dozen cases of omicron BA.4 and BA.5 in Africa and Europe. BA.4 and BA.5 don’t appear to be more contagious or deadly than the original omicron mutation so far, but that could change as more cases are detected.
  • Shanghai reports first Covid deaths since lockdown started in March. Shanghai on Monday said three people had died from Covid-19 – all elderly people (89-91) with underlying conditions. It was the first official announcement of deaths from the current outbreak. The eastern business hub posted 22,248 new domestic cases on Monday, according to the municipal health commission.

Flu Update:

  • According to CDC’s latest report, Influenza activity increased nationally this week. Influenza activity is highest in the central and south-central regions of the country and is increasing in most regions..
  • CDC recommends flu vaccination as long as flu viruses are circulating.

Food Safety:

  • Consumer demand for alternative proteins is expected to continue rising, especially as innovation and technological enhancements improve the taste, texture and affordability. Expected 2022 trends are: further technological advances, healthier formulations, plant-based seafoods, and plant-based milk innovation.
  • A new peer-reviewed study, published in Applied Sciences, offers a risk–benefit analysis of GMOs based on scientific evidence and debunks myths that interest groups have spread. “Science has not evidenced any harm from use of GM crops,” wrote the authors who serve on the faculties of two universities in Spain. “Instead, it has documented economic, environmental and health benefits from their commercialization. Overall, the considerable scientific consensus holds, insofar as currently marketed GM food do not pose a higher risk than traditional food.” (Cornell)
  • The WHO is investigating at least 74 cases of Hepatitis (liver inflammation) in children mainly in the UK, but there are cases reported in Spain, Scotland, Denmark, and Netherlands as well.  Cases have also been reported in Alabama in the US. Many of the cases previously were infected with other viruses including SARS-CoV-2 and adenovirus; 6 of the cases have been given liver transplants.  Officials have excluded hepatitis type A, B, C, and E viruses as the causative agent.
  • Efoodalert article provides an overview of the Abbott Nutrition Similac baby formula contamination based on FDA’s September 20-24, 2021, Establishment Inspection Report (EIR), obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.