Updated: September 2, 2020
This week’s 50-State Risk Matrix assessment will be delayed due to the delayed release of data on which aspects of the matrix are based. We will post the update in Friday’s COVID-19 email. Keep an eye out for it!
In Today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss CDC’s clarification on COVID-19 testing for critical infrastructure establishments and FDA’s take on industry adherence to its employee health and food safety checklist – both of which were discussed on the joint CDC/FDA/OSHA webinar of September 1.
The month of September is home to two important awareness themes for our industry: National Food Safety Education Month and National Preparedness Month. Not only are food safety and its practices (and ensuring that everyone is knowledgeable of food safety) critical; but, being prepared for crisis situations (like COVID-19, emergency shut downs, etc.) is imperative to continuing a safe and productive food system. How are you being a Food Safety hero? To learn more about the two “awareness” events, check out our Monday post.
Recommendations for Industry
Agencies Clarify Recommendations for COVID-19 Testing and Checklist Use
In response to numerous questions the CDC has received on its updated COVID-19 testing for current infection issued last week, the agency has stated that its recommendations for critical infrastructure work settings, especially those that are high density, continues to be “that testing be considered as one tool to identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals.” The statement was made on the joint FDA/CDC/OSHA COVID-19 Update for Food Operations Stakeholders Webinar on Tuesday, September 1.
Outbreaks among workers have highlighted the need for a testing strategy as a tool to help identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals who might not know they are infected, CDC stated, specifically in instances when symptomatic workers with COVID-19 are identified. The testing strategy should augment existing control measures that identify infectious individuals who may require isolation or quarantine to reduce transmission or prevent outbreaks in the workplace.
With this testing, CDC also noted that businesses should have an established procedure for priority testing based on an assessment of risk and procedures addressing the actions to be taken based on test results.
CDC’s clarification of its recommendations follows TAG’s advice from last week that there are scenarios in which additional testing (such as that of asymptomatic people) is reasonable and of value, based on your determination as to what will be done with the results.
The webinar also included a discussion of the Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for food operations during COVID-19 (published August 19). Again, responding to numerous questions, FDA stated that the checklist is not guidance or regulation, but is a resource document and a “tool to trigger the thinking process.” As an educational tool, FDA investigators will not be asking the questions or documenting adherence in their inspections.
However, because FDA also noted that is it based on regulation and guidance, TAG recommends that all food businesses review the 16-page document and “trigger your thinking” on your practices to align with the aspects of the list applicable to you. (We will delve into this more in our Sept. 10 weekly newsletter. Keep an eye out for that as well!)
As of September 02, 2020 (11:32 ET), there are over 25,795,000 cases (>858,000 deaths) worldwide.
Due to the increasing number of cases in the United States, TAG will move from reporting counts per country to focus on the United States, please see here for the data. For further information regarding worldwide numbers, please refer to John Hopkin University’s aggregate map.
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