The total number of global cases of COVID-19 are inching towards 90,000 with a death count of 3,000, as the cases domestically rise to 100 and 6 deaths – all fatalities from Washington state. Genetic analysis of two cases tested weeks apart in Washington state confirm that the illness was silently spreading for as long as 6 weeks before the first case was detected.

CDC Expanded Testing Criteria for COVID-19

Responding to the increase in community spread in Washington state, the CDC expanded the risk criteria for COVID-19 testing so that patients with severe respiratory illness no longer need to have returned from an affected country, or have had known contact with someone with the virus to be tested for the disease. Newly released CDC-developed test kits will now enable public state labs. Wider access to testing, coupled with the broadened risk criteria, will likely unearth previously unknown cases of community spread.

Treatment Trials Underway

Phase I of the first human trials for the initial batch of the proposed COVID-19 antiviral therapeutic treatment called remdesivir, developed by Modern Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will begin in April at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, and last several months. The trials are designed to evaluate the efficacy in adults already diagnosed with COVID-19. The vials will be tested again in phase II of the trials which could last another 6-8 months. Initial timetables show that the earliest treatment could be available would be in 18 months.

Identifying Trigger Events for COVID-19

The CDC stated last week that immediate risk to the US is still low, but globally a pandemic is forthcoming and thus customized containment and mitigation strategies would need to be developed for possible implementation at a community level. Developing community-based interventions, like school dismissals, major event cancellations, and social distancing, can help prevent the spread of disease.

Dr. Eric Ossmann, VIGILINT founder and emergency physician stated: “Organizations should identify their own set of trigger events, key mitigation strategies, and risk communications unique to their operations to help minimize COVID-19 infections and reduce disruption to workflow.” Examples of trigger events that should propel immediate corporate mitigation strategies:

  • Sustained human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 cases in the workplace and/or in the local community
  • Raised CDC travel warning to Level to 3 or higher in areas where there are employees

Prior to a trigger event occurring, organizations should review the following “best practice” prevention and mitigation control strategies to reduce the frequency and duration to the exposure of the virus and limit the disruption to company operations. Examples of general “best practice” measures to prevent illness in the workplace while maintaining operations:

  • Enforce social distancing o Limit shared spaces by closing cafeterias and other public-use spaces
  • Encourage virtual meetings, even for individuals in the same office building
  • Increase telework options
  • Place signs in the restrooms and throughout the office instructing good hygiene practices (wash hands under warm water for 20 seconds)
  • Add hand sanitizer to high traffic areas
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home and not return until they show no signs of a fever, fever-like signs, or other respiratory symptoms for at least 24 hours
  • Amp up the environmental cleaning schedule and provide disinfectant cleaning agents and disposable towels at work stations
  • Utilize the CDC and State Department Travel Advisories to determine if travel would be impacted in a specific country or region from COVID-19 outbreak and adherence recommendations to prevent illness

For more information and guidance to develop your COVID-19 pandemic response plan, please contact your VIGILINT representative.