the CDC’s MMWR reports that contracting COVID-19 was twice as likely after eating in a restaurant.  According to the CDC:

In this investigation, participants with and without COVID-19 reported generally similar community exposures, with the exception of going to locations with on-site eating and drinking options. Adults with confirmed COVID-19 (case-patients) were approximately twice as likely as were control-participants to have reported dining at a restaurant in the 14 days before becoming ill. In addition to dining at a restaurant, case-patients were more likely to report going to a bar/coffee shop, but only when the analysis was restricted to participants without close contact with persons with known COVID-19 before illness onset. Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation. Direction, ventilation, and intensity of airflow might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance. Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use.

Officials in the Chinese city of Shenzhen said on Thursday that a batch of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil tested positive for coronavirus, sparking fresh concerns about contamination on frozen food packaging and following a scare in June surrounding salmon in Beijing, but World Health Organization officials said later in the day that there’s no evidence that the disease is being spread by food or food packaging.

In addition to well-established safety guarantees like social distancing and face mask use, hand hygiene is an integral component of the response to the emergence of COVID. Practicing hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, is a simple and effective way to decrease the spread of pathogens and infections, but, if soap and water are not readily available, the CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products that contain at least 60% alcohol (ethanol or isopropanol) in community settings; alcohol-based hand sanitizers used in health care settings should contain 60%–95% alcohol (≥60% ethanol or ≥70% isopropanol).

In order to meet the sudden and significant demand for hand sanitizer, however, some manufacturers opted to use a non-traditional ingredient: methanol. Methanol, per the FDA’s regulation of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as an over the counter drug, is not an acceptable ingredient for use in hand sanitizers. Although methanol can be absorbed through the skin, methanol poisoning through that avenue (otherwise known as transcutaneous transmission) is rare and has been reported under unusual circumstances. The extent and rate of transcutaneous methanol absorption depends on variables such as its form (e.g., vapors, liquid, or solution), contact time, dose, concentration, and size of the exposure area.

That said, inadvertent and/or unintentional ingestion by children and older individuals can occur. Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although all persons using these products on their hands are at risk, young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute, are most at risk for methanol poisoning.

Unfortunately, it appears that the use of sanitizer containing methanol has already had an impact. On June 30, 2020, CDC received notification from public health partners in Arizona and New Mexico of cases of methanol poisoning associated with ingestion of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The case reports followed an FDA consumer alert issued on June 19, 2020, warning about specific hand sanitizers that contain methanol.

CDC and state partners established a case definition of alcohol-based hand sanitizer–associated methanol poisoning and reviewed 62 poison center call records from May 1 through June 30, 2020, to characterize reported cases. Medical records were reviewed to abstract details missing from poison center call records. During this period, 15 adult patients met the case definition. All had ingested an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and were subsequently admitted to a hospital. Four patients died and three were discharged with vision impairment.

Persons should never ingest alcohol-based hand sanitizer and should also avoid use of specific imported products found to contain methanol. As of July 15, 2020, FDA had tested and identified 67 Alcohol-based hand sanitizer products that contain methanol.

As of June 29, the FDA’s list of sanitizers to avoid due to the use of methanol is as follows:

  • UVT hand sanitizer labeled with lot number 0530 and an expiration date of 04/2022.
  • Saniderm Products hand sanitizer labeled with lot number 53131626 and “Manufactured on April/1/20.”
  • All-Clean Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-002-01)
  • Esk Biochem Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-007-01)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-008-04)
  • Lavar 70 Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-006-01)
  • The Good Gel Antibacterial Gel Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-010-10)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-005-03)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 75% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-009-01)
  • CleanCare NoGerm Advanced Hand Sanitizer 80% Alcohol (NDC: 74589-003-01)
  • Saniderm Advanced Hand Sanitizer (NDC: 74589-001-01)

The CDC advises that, if consumers have any of the products on the list, they should discontinue use immediately, and the product should be disposed of in hazardous waste containers. The products should not be flushed down a toilet or poured down a drain.

The products are being recalled by the manufacturer or distributor in the United States and the FDA investigation is ongoing.

SOURCES:

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932e1.htm?s_cid=mm6932e1_w

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-advises-consumers-not-use-hand-sanitizer-products-manufactured-eskbiochem

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-consumers-should-not-use

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6069146/

STURGIS, SD – AUGUST 07: Motorcyclists ride down Main Street during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 7, 2020 in Sturgis, South Dakota. While the rally usually attracts around 500,000 people, officials estimate that more than 250,000 people may still show up to this year’s festival despite the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

What possibly could go wrong?

Thousands of bikers gathered in the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota today, for the opening day of what is expected to be one of the largest events since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Each year, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally draws hundreds of thousands of bikers from all over the country for “10 days and nights of riding, food, and music,” according to the event’s website. This year, the organizers are expecting 250,000 attendees from around the country despite fears that the large-scale gathering could lead to an equally large outbreak of coronavirus.

But while a majority of local residents are worried that the crowds could create a “super-spreader” event, others remain unfazed. When asked about the potential dangers of the Rally, Bob Davis, a lifelong Sturgis resident, replied, “Freedom, God, and Donald Trump.”

Unfortunately, many Rally attendees share Davis’s sentiment. On Friday, street vendors hawked “Screw COVID I came to Sturgis” T-shirts, and, according to an Associated Press reporter, motorcycles were everywhere, but masks were almost nowhere to be seen; the reporter counted fewer than 10 masked individuals in a crowd of thousands over a period of several hours.

Laura Armstrong, the city council president for the largest town near Sturgis, forewarned, “[t]hey’re not going to be able to handle any kind of social distancing; there’s a significant amount of alcohol involved, it’s a huge party. They can infect our Native American population, our law enforcement, potentially our bar staff, our tourist attractions, our hotels and motels, and even our grocery stores.” In contrast, Surgis’s own city council never even considered whether or not to approve the Rally; the question simply did not come up.

The COVID-19 & Food Safety Global Summit, organized by the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and sponsored by Marler Clark LLP PS, is a two-hour virtual international event taking place on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

The Summit is bringing together scientific experts, regulatory officials, academics, and industry executives worldwide to better understand the threat and challenges the virus poses to food and food handlers. The current list of panelists includes LeeAnne Jackson, Co-Chair of FDA’s Food and Agriculture Sector’s Government Coordinating Council, Gudrun Gallhoff, Minister Counsellor for Health & Food in the Delegation of the European Union in Beijing, Chen Junshi, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment’s Chief Scientific Advisor, John Donaghy, Nestle’s Head of Food Safety, and Markus Lipp, Head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ Food Safety and Quality Unit, as well as Marler Clark’s very own managing partner, William “Bill” Marler, among others.

The event’s agenda lists numerous relevant topics of discussion, including:

  • COVID-19, food safety and security – a global perspective
  • How can regulators support food safety and food security in times of a pandemic?
  • How can we best translate new knowledge to create best practices and promote risk reduction?
  • International Issues in Food Production
  • An overall risk-based approach for COVID-19 management includes appropriately directed hygiene protocols, training and verification.
  • Considerations for developing and implementing an optimal hygiene program
  • Best practices for implementing physical distancing
  • Suppliers and food chain dynamics

A report on the summit highlights will be published by Food Safety News and Journal of Food Protection, the official media partners.

Register for this event at: http://www.chinafoodsafety.com/covidsummit/regform_e.htm.

According to the CDC, among 23 states reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and poultry processing facilities, 16,233 cases in 239 facilities occurred, including 86 (0.5%) COVID-19–related deaths. Among cases with race/ethnicity reported, 87% occurred among racial or ethnic minorities.

The animal slaughtering and processing industry employs an estimated 525,000 workers in approximately 3,500 facilities nationwide. Combining data on workers with COVID-19 and COVID-19–related deaths identified and reported through May 31 from 23 states (16,233 cases; 86 deaths) with data from an earlier assessment through April 27 (1,125 cases; five deaths) that included data from six states that did not contribute updated data to this report, at least 17,358 cases and 91 COVID-19–related deaths have occurred among U.S. meat and poultry processing workers.

Read the full report here – https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6927e2.htm?s_cid=mm6927e2_w

Everlywell, a health and wellness company that provides at-home lab testing kits, has received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 at-home collection kit. Everlywell’s EUA is the first to be issued to a digital health company that is not a diagnostics manufacturer. It is also the only EUA for at-home COVID-19 testing that is not tied to one specific lab; the company is allowed to work with a number of certified labs, allowing for large-scale testing.

Each at-home kit provides a molecular PCR test, which detects the presence (or absence) of active SARS-CoV-2 virus (i.e. coronavirus) in a “self-collected nasal swab.”[1] The kit includes an online screening questionnaire, instructions on how to collect and ship a sample to the lab, digital results within 48 hours of the sample being received by the lab, and results reviewed by an independent physician. Positive test results include a follow-up “telehealth consult” and are reported to federal and local public health agencies.[2]

The kits are limited to one per household and cost $109 each. They are available now on Everlywell’s website: https://www.everlywell.com/products/covid-19-test/.

According to GoodRx, there are currently five companies selling at-home COVID-19 tests: Pixel by LabCorp, Everlywell, Vault, Vitagene, and him & hers.[3] These at-home tests appeal to the masses; they are quick and convenient, especially for individuals who may not want to get tested in person or cannot commute to in-person testing sites.

*       *       *

[1] Everlywell. “COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit,” https://www.everlywell.com/products/covid-19-test/.

[2] Id.

[3] GoodRx. “Can I Test for Coronavirus At Home? The State of At-Home COVID-19 Tests” (May 26, 2020), https://www.goodrx.com/blog/coronavirus-at-home-tests/.