Levels Increasing, but Significantly Lower than Early 2022

Key Points:

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the trends of COVID based on TAG’s weekly matrix and the CDC community levels mapping. Read more below.
  • Four global regions around the world have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, including in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Western Pacific, The Americas, and the African region. The WHO is currently monitoring BA.4, BA.5, and BA.2.12.1 Omicron subvariants, “So far, BA.4 has been identified in 20 countries, BA.5 in 19, and BA.2.12.1 in 38.” (CIDRAP).
  • The FDA has expanded booster dose eligibility for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children 5 – 11 years old (FDA).
  • Based on current CDC guidance of communitiy risk, one-third of the U.S. should consider masking; most of these medium and high-risk areas are in the Northeast and also Northern Great Lakes states (CNN).
  • A recent study has found that “over 75 percent of long covid patients were not hospitalized for initial illness” (NYT).
  • With a demographic breakdown quite similar to that in the U.S., Australia’s COVID-19 death rate is 1/10th that in the U.S. While one can say that this might be due to early lockdowns or Australia’s isolation from the world or even its vaccination scheduling and dispersal, “dozens of interviews, along with survey data and scientific studies from around the world, point to a lifesaving trait that Australians displayed from the top of government to the hospital floor, and that Americans have shown they lack: trust, in science and institutions, but especially in one another.” Indeed, Australians not only overwhelmingly trusted their healthcare system (76% trust), but also agreed that “most people can be trusted” which allowed for ensuring “behavior for [the] common good” for “interpersonal trust – a belief that others would do what was right not just for the individual but for the community.”  Additionally, in Australia, politicians and leaders also “chose to avoid partisanship,” instead “both parties lined up behind a ‘one voice approach,’ with medical officers out front” (NYT).
  • Children (under 17 years old) with heart conditions were more likely to develop severe COVID-19 (CIDRAP).
  • Recently published studies have found the mRNA vaccines (created by Pfizer and Moderna), “elicited stronger antibody responses against four variants of concern (VOCs) [specifically, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta] and the original virus compared to viral vector vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and AstraZeneca.” (CIDRAP).
  • A recent study has found that Cornell University’s COVID-19 surveillance and vaccination programs protected vaccinated individuals from the Omicron variant; however, mass testing (and other mitigation measures) were unable to fully prevent “rapid viral transmission.” Most infections were mild with no hospitalizations (CIDRAP).
  • Kaiser Health News discusses the importance of increasing ventilation in your home; yes, open those windows.
  • The WHO will discuss a Global Pandemic Treaty at the World Health Assembly, next week, May 22 – 28th.
  • In Germany, according to the Schengen Visa Information site, “entry rules for all travellers” will continue to be in place for all; “all persons over the age of 12 are required to present COVID proof – a vaccination, recovery, or test certificate – when reaching Germany, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.”
  • NYT does an expose on “Coping with ‘zero COVID’” in China, exploring what that means and what that means for residents that are currently stuck and under lockdown.

Public Health & Food Safety

  • The monkeypox outbreak is in the U.K., Europe, and also now in the U.S. NPR’s Goat and Soda breaks down what this means. And did you know, monkeypox doesn’t come from monkeys?! (NPR). The first case of monkeypox has been identified in Massachusetts (Reuters).
  • 35 states are now affected by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu outbreak (CIDRAP).
  • China has confirmed “a fatal H5N6 avian flu case”; since 2015, “China has now reported 78 H5N6 infections, which are often severe or fatal.” (CIDRAP).
  • The CDC continues the investigation into the 180 cases of childhood acute hepatitis in the U.S. (CNBC).
  • A recent study “found cesarean delivery, either with or without labor, or elective or emergency, compared to vaginal birth does not impact on the likelihood of food allergy at 12 months of age.” This study was conducted on 2,045 infants (EurekAlert).
  • A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of community-acquired pneumonia infections in children have found that “an antibiotic treatment duration of 3 to 5 days for CAP in children over 6 months of age was as effective as 7 to 10 days” (CIDRAP).
  • Mozambique is reporting its first wild polio case (as an outbreak) in 30 years. The sequenced strain is “linked to a strain of polio spreading in Pakistan in 2019 [and] reported in Malwali earlier this year” (CIDRAP/AP News).
  • “Expert warns that the prevalence of ticks in America is growing”; while many are bitten yearly, “contraction of Lyme disease and other infections are rare.” As the weather warms up and we’re outdoors, make sure to do “regular tick checks, [and wear] long sleeves in areas of high exposure and [use] bug spray” (Daily Mail).

Recommendations for Industry

Levels Increasing, but Significantly Lower than Early 2022

As shown in both TAG’s weekly matrix and the CDC community levels map, we are continuing to see an increase in COVID cases in the U.S., including some increase in hospitalizations, with six states now at “yellow” medium-risk levels. While this is an uptick, the majority of states are still in the “green” low-risk levels, and are showing an extremely low rate when compared to the nearly all “red” high-risk hospitalization levels of February. So while numbers are up, the proportion of those experiencing severe illness remains lower than with previous variants.

While it is important to know if one’s symptoms are due to COVID to help reduce continued transmission, it is just as important that ill people stay home – regardless of the cause – to reduce the transmission of any infectious disease.

Given all this, TAG’s recommendation continues to be for businesses to stay aware of the number of people out with COVID or respiratory illness. We are seeing some businesses experiencing increased absenteeism and clustering of infections in particular work areas. While illnesses are mostly mild, we encourage people to keep thinking about continuity of operations and delivering key services if the majority of a workgroup is out due to COVID. Recommending temporary masking when cases at a workplace can also reduce the risk of transmission in crowded indoor spaces like shipping and receiving offices, conference rooms, etc. 

Risk Matrix:

In Case You Missed It:

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed keeping ill workers home to reduce both infectious and foodborne diseases. Read more here.
  • To handle the rise in COVID-19 cases, the U.S. government is again sending free COVID-19 tests to U.S. households. In this 3rd round of free at-home tests, you will receive 8 tests (2 packages of 4 tests each). Sign up at COVID.gov.
  • Based on the CDC’s new risk-rankings for travel, Antigua and Barbuda, Lesotho, South Africa, and Taiwan have recently been moved to Level 3 “high” risk. Similarly, some European countries including France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the U.K. are in the Level 3 category as are Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand (CNN).
  • NY Times explores the question, “How often can you be infected with the coronavirus?” as it appears that the new variants are becoming “more adept at reinfecting people.” However, it seems that “most people who are reinfected with new versions of Omicron will not become seriously ill.”
  • The FDA is soon expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds (NYT).
  • The ECDC has designated the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as variants of concern as their numbers rise. Although first detected in South Africa and driving the cases in Africa, these two subvariants are increasingly being detected in Europe, including Portugal (CIDRAP).
  • Kaiser Health News reports that much of the CDC’s award funding for state health departments to address COVID-19 health disparities has not been used (CIDRAP).
  • The FDA announced an EUA for a prescription-only multi-plex PCR test that can be used to test for three viruses at once: COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (CIDRAP).
  • The U.S. COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is expected to be extended past July 2022 (Bloomberg).


  • In the U.S., seasonal influenza viruses continue to circulate and activity is increasing in parts of the country. CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 65,000 hospitalizations, and 4,000 deaths from flu.
  • Avian flu outbreaks have now struck four more states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Wyoming (CIDRAP).

Public Health & Food Safety:

  • Two new monkeypox cases have been identified in the U.K. These cases are not associated with the earlier case reported last week (CIDRAP).
  • Measles cases increased globally by 79% in the first 2 months of 2022. The WHO labelled this development as a “worrying sign of a heightened risk for the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.” The global body cited pandemic-related disruptions and diversion of resources from routine immunization as the major reasons for the rise.
  • In light of the worsening baby formula shortage, Abbott (in Sturgis, MI) and the FDA have struck a deal to restart the plant to produce baby formula (Mlive).