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Acheson Group February 19, 2021 0 Comments

Key Points:

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss the continued need for mask wearing in offices. Read More.
  • FDA and HHS have reiterated that there is no current epidemiologic and scientific information of food or food packaging as associated with or being a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19. Thus, despite some media reports out of China, there is no credible evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or food packaging that the virus is not spreading through food
  • In two letters published in the New England Journal of Medicine, CIDRAP reports that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa. However, the Moderna vaccine seems to offer good proection against the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
  • A new New England Journal of Medicine letter finds that the Pfizer vaccine is effective up to 92.6% after the first dose!
  • Two studies have identified that: (A) consuming high doses of zinc and vitamin C will not improve mild COVID-19 infections (it won’t make you get better faster); and (B) a single dose of Vitamin D does not significantly effect moderate to sever COVID-19 infections. Continue to be cognizant of supplemental claims that claim to improve and heal COVID-19.
  • This past year, the life expentancy of Americans have dropped by one year. This is the greatest drop in death rate since World Wart 2.
  • In about 50% of COVID-19 patients discharged from the hospital (after a severe COVID-19 case), a new study finds that patients have “high rates of heart muscle injury […] some may have been pre-exiting […but] some were new, and likely caused by COVID-19”.
  • A CDC Emerging Infectious Disease report finds that risk mitigation measures (including universal masking policies and installing physical barriers at facilities) instilled at meat poultry processing plants (that were deeply affected by the COVID-19 spread), signifincaltly reduced the incindence of COVID-19 in <10 days.

Recommendations for Industry

Why Office Mask Wearing Is Still Essential

Q. With case rates declining across the country, can we pull back on our requirement for all persons to wear masks in office areas?

A. TAG recommends that you retain requirements for mask-wearing at all times in offices, as also recommended by CDC (universal masking policy). This is primarily because we don’t yet know enough about the transmissibility (and potential increase in morbidity and mortality) of the emerging variants; but we do know that the variants differ from the original strain in their spike protein configurations, which essentially means that (for some variants) it may take a lower “dose” of COVID-19 to cause infection.

Wearing a mask does not simply keep an infected person from infecting others, it also is a barrier that protects an uninfected person from becoming infected. So continual mask usage in offices is recommended – along with a focus on mask fit, which has become even more important with the increased transmissibility of the variants. A mask that fits snugly, but comfortably, around the face without gaps will limit air from “leaking” in or out.

It is also critical to consider the indoor ventilation systems and how air is being handled in individual offices. An August 2020 research paper studying infection probability of COVID-19 with ventilation rates in confined spaces found that if both an infectious and a non-infected person are wearing masks, infection probability goes down – even when ventilation rates are lowered. There have also been many other studies done on ventilation, airflow, and transmissibility.Because COVID-19 can be airborne spread through small suspended droplets, continual mask wearing protects the wearer and limits distribution of particles in confined spaces.

Even a person, alone in an office, can spread the virus if they are infective (e.g., asymptomatically), remove their mask, and cough, sneeze – or even just talk loudly on the phone. The aerosolized particles can remain in the air, so if an uninfected person comes in wearing an ill-fitting mask, they could inhale particles and become ill.

By mid to late March 2021, we expect to have a better sense of the impact of the new variants – particularly the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the UK – on transmission and case rates in the US.  But at least until then, even though case rates are currently declining, it would be premature to begin relaxing control measures at this point – especially masking.

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