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Key Points:

In today’s Recommendations for industry, we discuss this week’s Risk Matrices and address the issue of wearing two masks.

Recommendations for Industry

TAG U.S. Risk Matrix and Masking

When we look at the data trends, which have been regularly tracked in TAG’s weekly risk matrices (see below), the 2021 trends, thus far, are showing that, as a country, the U.S. is heading in a good direction, with some geographic exceptions. The “wild card,” however is the variants that are continuing to spread globally, with some detection in various parts of the U.S.

With this, TAG’s recommendation is the same as it has been: Continue doing what you’re doing, nothing needs to, or should, change at this point. This is particularly true of masks. While there has been some media discussion about wearing two masks for added protection, TAG continues to recommend that the focus be on fit and filtration, rather than number. While N95 masks do provide the greatest protection, two- or three-layer disposable or homemade masks will also provide protection when made of the proper material and correctly worn. Some recommendations from the U.S. CDC and/or Canadian government include:

  • Have two or more layers of tightly woven, breathable, and washable fabric, such as cotton or linen
  • A third (middle) layer of a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric, can help increase protection
  • Be large enough to completely cover your nose and mouth
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and not have gaps
  • Allow for easy breathing
  • Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • Be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
  • If reusable, maintain its shape after washing and drying

For more information and infographics that can be posted in your business, see TAG’s COVID-19 Resources webpage for  

TAG Matrices

Based on TAG’s matrices since last week:

  • Eighteen (18) states are in the Highest-Risk Quadrant (Outbreak Index > 50) (Figure 1, Figure 2, Table 1). This is down from 23 last week. States in the High and Highest-Risk Quadrants are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
  • The Government Stringency Index remains at 48 this week.
  • Fourteen (14) states’ (Arizona, California, Idaho, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont) businesses are in mixed opening stages. Two (2) states’ (Oregon and New Mexico) businesses are mostly closed.
  • Twenty-two (22) states have a TPR ≥10% and a case rate ≥ 25/100K people (Table 2). This is down from 27 states last week. This indicates that testing may not be adequate to fully characterize the true severity of the outbreak in the states. On the other hand, 19 states and Washington D.C. have a TPR < 10% and a case rate≥ 25/100K people indicates adequate testing that is likely finding most symptomatic cases of illnesses. This is up from 16 last week. South Dakota is the only state with a TPR<10% and a case rate < 25/100K.

  • Fourteen (14) states’ (Arizona, California, Idaho, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont) businesses are in mixed opening stages. Two (2) states’ (Oregon and New Mexico) businesses are mostly closed.
  • Twenty-two (22) states have a TPR ≥10% and a case rate ≥ 25/100K people (Table 2). This is down from 27 states last week. This indicates that testing may not be adequate to fully characterize the true severity of the outbreak in the states. On the other hand, 19 states and Washington D.C. have a TPR < 10% and a case rate≥ 25/100K people indicates adequate testing that is likely finding most symptomatic cases of illnesses. This is up from 16 last week. South Dakota is the only state with a TPR<10% and a case rate < 25/100K.

In Case You Missed It

·         In Monday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the new administration’s federal strategy for COVID-19 worker protections.

·         On Thursday, The White House released a new Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, which outlines actions the federal government must take to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace. Actions include “partnering with state and local governments to better protect public employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees.”

·         CDC has tweaked recommendations for the second dose of COVID-19 vaccinations (without data) to note that in extreme circumstances, the second dose can be another vaccine. TAG encourages employers to work with public health authorities to find a consistent and reliable source of vaccines so that this practice isn’t necessary.

·         Bharat Biotech’s BBV152 COVID-19 Phase 1 vaccine data “shows it is safe and immune-producing.”

·         A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that despite the push to get people vaccinated, 6 of 10 U.S. adults don’t know when they’ll get the COVID-19 vaccine; while 55% do not know where they will be able to receive one. However, the public is generally optimistic about the COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Read more of the report here.

·         Like other countries, the U.S., in order to slow the spread of the new COVID-19 strains, will soon place non-U.S. citizen travel restrictions to and from South Africa. 

·         In Friday’s Recommendations for Industry, we explored President Biden’s new Federal Strategy – and a new TAG Vaccine Manual!

·         United States' President Joe Biden and the incoming administration has released the “National Strategy for The COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness

·         President Biden is also encouraging “masking up” to reduce spread so that more businesses can be open. Masks will be required in airports, trains, intercity busses, etc. Additionally, the new Executive Order requires international travelers to show proof of having a negative COVID-19 test before coming to the U.S.

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