OSHA Ramps Up Physical Inspections, COVID-19 Case Reporting
The U.S. Department of Labor's workplace safety office is stepping up in-person inspections in areas where COVID-19 infections have slowed and making more employers disclose when workers come down with the coronavirus, according to new enforcement memos issued Tuesday. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) told state and regional officials where "community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased" to return to the pre-coronavirus playbook after halting most in-person inspections at the height of the pandemic last month. The agency also said all employers subject to its illness record-keeping rules must track and report workplace COVID-19 cases as best they can, nixing an earlier policy excusing all but health care, corrections, and first response employers from that duty.
CDC Director Touts Decrease in COVID-19 Transmission
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said the U.S. has seen sufficient declines in community-based transmission of the novel coronavirus to enable businesses to begin reopening, but he said the government still needs to expand testing and contact tracing to prevent another wave of infection in the fall and winter. He said the CDC is working with state public health agencies to contain outbreaks in nursing homes, among homeless populations, in meatpacking facilities, and in other areas. He also said the CDC is looking to expand the contact tracing workforce by between 30,000 and 100,000 people.
FDA Will Seek to Collect “Real-World” Data on COVID-19
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday that it will launch a new research project focused on real-world evidence -- data collected by insurance companies, in electronic health records, and in other places in medicine -- to learn more about COVID-19, including how diagnostics and medications are being used in the pandemic and how best to design studies to test them. The project is a collaboration with Aetion, a New York health tech startup that specializes in real-world evidence.
Assessment of Deaths from COVID-19 and from Seasonal Influenza
Some continue to draw comparisons between the deaths from seasonal influenza and COVID-19, possibly due to a knowledge gap regarding how the data are publicly reported. The CDC presents seasonal influenza data as calculated estimates. Between 2013-2014 and 2018-2019, the reported yearly estimated influenza deaths ranged from 23,000 to 61,000, while the number of counted influenza deaths was between 3,448 and 15,620. Conversely, COVID-19 fatalities are being counted and reported directly, not estimated. When comparing counted deaths, the number of COVID-19 deaths for the week ending April 21 was 9.5-fold to 44.1-fold greater than the peak week of counted influenza deaths during the past 7 influenza seasons in the U.S., with a 20.5-fold mean increase.