Editorial


Review and Authorization of COVID Vaccines

It is axiomatic that restoration of our economy will be dependent on an effective vaccine accepted by at least 60 percent of our population. During the past two weeks, Pfizer and Moderna have publicized preliminary data in press releases indicating over 90 percent effectiveness of their respective mRNA vaccines. Both Pfizer and Moderna conducted their trials in the U.S. in addition to other nations and have submitted data to the FDA to be considered for emergency use authorization. (EUA).

 

It is noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a critical cold chain that will represent logistic problems in distribution.  The Moderna vaccine has a less rigorous temperature requirement that will facilitate widespread administration especially in rural areas.

 

 On Monday, November 23rd, AstraZeneca noted that their adenovirus-vectored COVID vaccine was up to 90 percent effective when administered to recipients according to a specific dose sequence, as part of their Phase-3 trial. Using two similar full doses they achieved 60 percent protection. The AstraZeneca vaccine developed in collaboration with Oxford University is a more conventional vaccine than the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA products and is based on a simian (Ad5) adenovirus vector with inserted genes coding for SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Two doses of this vaccine are required but the product can be stored under conventional refrigeration. AstraZeneca will complete their dossier before the end of the year. The Russian ‘Sputnik-5’ vaccine is similar in principle to the AstraZenica vaccine but uses two different adenovirus vectors for the first (Ad26) and second (Ad5) doses. The Novovax subunit vaccine has yet to be tested.

 

On Sunday November 22nd Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) explained the review sequence to approve a COVID vaccine.

 

  • The company manufacturing the vaccine must compile data, subjected to rigorous statistical analysis in a dossier including details of the development and manufacture of the vaccine, the protocol for trials and the results with an interpretation
  • The portfolio is reviewed by NIAID
  • The company submits the application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be critically and comprehensively reviewed by career scientists with specific expertise in the fields of virology, statistics, pathology and infectious diseases.
  • The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee external to the FDA also reviews the data and makes a recommendation. This body is scheduled to convene on December 10th having previously studied the submission by each applicant for approval.
  • The Commissioner of the FDA reviews the recommendations of the internal career scientists and the Advisory Committee before granting emergency use authorization
  • Permanent approval is subject to a formal and more rigorous review including safety data and duration of immune response based on longer-term application over a larger number of recipients

 

The application by AstraZeneca may be delayed in the U.S. given questions over efficacy in relation to dose and review of their Phase-3 trial that was conducted simultaneously in the U.S., South Africa, Brazil, the UK and other EU nations.  It is anticipated that emergency use authorization will be granted by regulators in the UK and EU based on an evaluation of results and that this vaccine will be distributed in both industrialized and developing nations.

 

In commenting on the reported 95 percent efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci stated, "it can't get much better than that.  I think what people need to appreciate - and that’s what I have said like maybe a hundred times in the last week or two - is the process by which a decision is made".  Facui noted that Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the FDA has publicly vowed that he will accede to the opinions of the career scientist and the Advisory Board and his decision will be independent of any political pressure.  The companies producing vaccines under the DHHS ‘Warp Speed’ program issued a statement in October amid pre-election rhetoric and implied pressure that they would only submit data to FDA when they were convinced that their respective vaccines were both safe and effective as demonstrated in approved Phase-3 trials.

 

The question of acceptability is now the major challenge facing immunization of the U.S. population.  Our citizens must be confident that vaccines have been thoroughly tested in order to achieve a compliance rate in excess of 60 percent of those eligible using a two-dose program.  Currently there is considerable concern over efficacy and safety as evidenced by surveys that show a low intent to receive the vaccine when it becomes available.  Administering the small quantity of available vaccine in late December to medical care-givers, first responders and those at high risk of complications will improve confidence. The fact that there is now interaction and cooperation between the current and the incoming administration will ensure a smooth transition with seamless execution. Hopefully initial experience denoting acceptable immunity and freedom from adverse reactions will lead to high rates of uptake when vaccines become available to the general public in adequate quantities during the second quarter of 2021 onwards.


 

Egg Industry News


WEEKLY COMMODITY REPORT: November 20th 2020.

  • The financial and economic uncertainties of a Biden-Harris Administration and the escalating COVID-19 pandemic continue but these factors appear to have had little influence on the commodity market this past week as society struggles with ascending COVID incidence delaying a return to a “new normal”. The direction of agricultural and trade policy to be implemented in 2021 will emerge following the nomination of Cabinet members and their subordinates.
  • S producers are now receiving and conversely, livestock producers are paying over $4 per bushel for corn and $11 per bushel for soybeans.
  • Commodity prices this past week were higher, adding to increases recorded last week. Factors influencing prices included export orders, lower projections for 2020 crop yields and ending stocks as documented in the November 10th WASDE Report. Corn showed a 3.4 percent rise for the week with daily fluctuation on prospects of additional orders from China and shipments to Mexico and S. Korea. Soybeans were up 2.9 percent in price this week mainly due to orders booked by China and other nations and projected lower ending stocks attributed to a downward revision of yield and associated factors. Soybean meal rose 1.5 percent disproportionately lower than the rise in the price of soybeans.
  • Since July 10th year-to-date exports and 2020/2021 market-year orders for corn have attained 9.39 million metric tons (370.0 million bushels). Orders for soybeans amounted to 19.5 million tons (716.0 million bushels) accelerating during September and October. USDA did not report on sales of corn and soybeans this past week.
  • Prospects for commodity exports to China during the 2020/2021 market year that began on September 1st for corn and soybeans have apparently improved. China adjusted their domestic short-term demand for soybeans as a result of an apparent increase in the hog population after severe losses in 2019 and early 2020 from African swine fever. White-feathered chicken production has now recovered after COVID disruptions and on QSR demand. China is also taking advantage of shipping rates that are fluctuating sharply in order to build inventory. The Baltic Dry Index tracking the three categories of vessels that was 1,860 in mid-October 2019, fell to 504 in late May 2020 and is now at 1,134 having risen 0.9 percent from the value last week to the lowest level since mid-June.

 

The following quotations for delivery in the months as indicated were posted by the CME shortly before the close of trading on November 20th compared with values posted on November 13th (in parentheses) reflecting specified months for delivery.

 

COMMODITY

Corn (cents per bushel)

 Dec. 423 (409)

March ‘21 428 (418)

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

 Jan. ’21 1,181 (1,148)

March ’21 1,182 (1,145)

Soybean meal ($ per ton)

 Dec. 395 (389)

March ‘21 390 (385)

Changes in the price of corn, soybeans and soybean meal over five trading days this past week were:-

COMMODITY CHANGE FROM PAST WEEK

Corn: Dec. quotation up 14 cents per bushel (+3.4 percent)

Soybeans: Jan. quotation up 33 cents per bushel (+2.9 percent)

Soybean Meal: Dec. quotation up $6 per ton (+1.5 percent)

 

  • For each 10 cent per bushel change in corn:-

The cost of egg production would change by 0.45 cent per dozen

The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

 

  • For each $10 per ton change in the price of soybean meal:-

The cost of egg production would change by 0.44 cent per dozen

The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

 

This week the escalation in the prices of corn and soybeans would increase production cost for eggs by 0.9 cents per dozen and 0.5 cents per pound live for broilers.

 

Uncertainties still include:-

  • There are questions as to whether China will satisfy quantitative obligations in terms of the Phase One Trade Agreement during calendar 2020. The Agreement signed in mid-January incorporated U.S. tariff rescissions, promised purchases of agricultural commodities (valued at $36.5 billion in 2020 and $43.5 billion in 2021), concessions on some structural issues by China and strengthened enforcement provisions. Since the Phase One agreement was signed, China has imported agricultural commodities including soybeans, corn, sorghum, pork and beef to the value of $23 Billion according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, amounting to 63 percent of commitment by China although this figure is disputed by independent economists. Renegotiation of the Phase-One Agreement by the incoming Administration is an unknown quantity.
  • Domestic U.S. soybean and soybean meal demand is now less constrained by COVID-induced cutbacks in the intensive livestock and poultry sectors.

 

According to the November 10th WASDE, corn to be harvested in calendar 2020 is expected to attain 14,507 million bushels with ending stocks projected at 1,702 million bushels. Final values will be modified by actual yield as influenced by weather conditions and export volume. Compared with the November 6th closing price the CME quotation for corn on November 20th was up 14 cents per bushel for December delivery to 423 cents, adding to the 22 cents per bushel rise recorded during the preceding two weeks.

 

The social restrictions imposed in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19 will reduce ethanol demand by 1.5 billion gallons or 10 percent of projected 2020 requirement accepting a nominal ten percent addition to gasoline. More than thirty percent of U.S. ethanol fermentation capacity is off-line at present and the outlook for increased demand is questionable. Ethanol was priced lower at $1.39 per gallon on November 20th down 4 cents per gallon (2.8 percent) representing a similar increase to the 2.1 percent rise last week and compared with a five-year low of $0.92 per gallon on March 26th. Concurrently gasoline at $1.17 per gallon (quoted, New York Harbor) is 22 cents per gallon lower than ethanol and has a 63 percent higher BTU rating.

 

With more plants producing ethanol in the 4th quarter, DDGS is now available but at a higher price than in the third quarter. Eastern Corn-belt product was priced at $192 per ton on November 17th, $9 higher than the previous week and $44 per ton more expensive than November 19th 2019.

 

 Soybeans were to be the beneficiary of the Phase-One agreement with China and were up 33 cents per bushel to 1,181 cents for January 2021 delivery. The USDA anticipates a 2020 crop of 4,170 million bushels, but this value may be depressed by drought in some states. Ending stocks according to the November 10th WASDE projection will attain 190 million bushels, down from the October projection of 290 million bushels.

 

On November 17th Meat and Bone meal quoted Central U.S. attained $335 per ton, up $108 per ton from November 19th 2019.

 

On November 20th the BRL exchange with the CNY was 0.82, (up CNY 0.01 from the previous week). The conversion of the US$ to the CNY was set at 6.6 on November 20th, up CNY 0.2 from the previous week.

 

For consecutive years 2017 through 2019 the U.S. supplied 34.4 percent of soybean requirements for China amounting to 95.5 million metric tons. This was followed by a decline to 16.9 percent of 88.5 million metric tons in 2018 and 16.6 percent of 88.0 million metric tons in 2019. The USDA anticipates that soybean imports by China will amount to 95 million metric tons during the 2020-2021 market year.

 

The following extracts from the September 30th 2020 edition of the Quarterly USDA Grain Stocks Report indicate the levels of storage on farms and in fields and off-farm for corn and soybeans.

  • “Old crop corn stocks in all positions on September 1, 2020 totaled 2.00 billion bushels, down 10 percent from September 1, 2019. Of the total stocks, 751 million bushels are stored on farms, down 8 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 1.24 billion bushels, are down 12 percent from a year ago. The June to August 2020 indicated disappearance is 3.02 billion bushels, compared with 2.98 billion bushels during the same period last year. Based on an analysis of end-of-marketing year stock estimates, disappearance data for exports, and farm program administrative data, the 2019 corn for grain production is revised up 2.67 million bushels from the previous estimate. Corn silage production is revised up 715 thousand tons. Planted area is revised to 89.7 million acres, and area harvested for grain is revised to 81.3 million acres. Area harvested for silage is revised to 6.62 million acres. The 2019 grain yield, at 167.5 bushels per acre, is up 0.1 bushel from the previous estimate. The 2019 silage yield, at 20.2 tons per acre, remains unchanged from the previous estimate”.
  • “Old crop soybeans stored in all positions on September 1, 2020 totaled 523 million bushels, down 42 percent from September 1, 2019. Soybean stocks stored on farms totaled 141 million bushels, down 47 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 382 million bushels, are down 41 percent from last September. Indicated disappearance for June - August 2020 totaled 858 million bushels, down 2 percent from the same period a year earlier. Based on an analysis of end-of-marketing year stock estimates, disappearance data for exports and crushings, and farm program administrative data, the 2019 soybean production is revised down 333 thousand bushels from the previous estimate. Planted area is unchanged at 76.1 million acres, but harvested area is revised to 74.9 million acres. The 2019 yield, at 47.4 bushels per acre, is unchanged from the previous estimate”.

 

On November 12th the USDA-ERS published data on the export volume (thousand metric tons) and value ($ million) of agricultural commodities covering the periods October through September 2019 and 2020:-

Corn. 2019: 49,124 million m. tons valued at $8,996 million. For 2020: 46,858 million m. tons valued at $8,214 million.

Soybeans. 2019: 48,241 million m. tons valued at $16,997 million. For 2020: 46,858 million m. tons valued at $18,021 million.

 

COMMENTS

Subscribers are referred to the November 10th WASDE #606 under the STATISTICS TAB and the result of the 2020 Pro Farmer 7-State Tour is retrievable under the Search TAB.

 

 President Trump opined on July 10th that he is “not contemplating a second phase of a trade agreement with China”

 

Approximately $16 billion will be disbursed under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). An additional $14 Billion relief package was announced by the Administration on September 18th with most distributed.


 

Egg Week

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, November 26th 2020.

  • The U.S. flock in production was seasonally up 3.8 million from the previous week to 322.6 million, with molted hens resuming production and pullets reaching maturity in anticipation of December demand.
  • Shell inventory was down a noteworthy 12.2 percent after a 2.0 percent decrease last week, representing the third sequential weekly decline despite a progressively larger producing flock. This indicates a balance between demand and supply with implications for prices going forward even with the sharp increase in supply. There is some evidence of a return in the food service sector as liquid and dried egg prices firm and the economy cautiously reopens but the incidence rate of COVID-19 is increasing sharply in many regions suggesting more restrictions.
  • The USDA Midwest benchmark generic prices for Extra-large, Large and Medium sizes were unchanged from the previous week at 102.5, 100.5 and 86.5 cents per dozen respectively. As of last week Midwest prices were markedly lagging corresponding weeks in 2019 and the 3-year average. Prices should continue to rise with seasonal demand despite molted hens resuming production and pullets commencing lay. An increase in shell egg and liquid demand should be evident moving into the last month of 2020.
  • The Midwest price of breaking stock was down 7.1 percent to an average of 65 cents per dozen. Checks in the Midwest were down 6.4 percent to an average of 58.5 cents per dozen.

OVERVIEW

 

Prices

According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports circulated on November 23rd 2020 the Midwest wholesale prices for Extra-large, Large and Medium sizes were unchanged from the previous week as delivered to DCs attaining averages of 102.5, 101.5 and 86.5 respectively. Prices should be compared with the USDA benchmark average 5-Region blended nest-run, (excluding provisions for packing and transport) cost of 64.6 cents per dozen in October 2020. The progression of prices during 2018-2020 is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.

 

The November 23rd 2020 edition of the USDA Egg Market News Report (Vol. 67: No. 47) documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $1.10 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending November 18th. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week. The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $1.01 per dozen. At the high end of the range, price in the South Central Region attained $1.16 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was about 40 cents per dozen below the 3-year average and approximately 40 cents per dozen below the corresponding week in 2019.

 

Flock Size

According to the USDA the number of producing hens this past week (rounded to 0.1 million) was up 3.8 million to 322.6 million. If USDA data is accurate, the producing flock contains molted hens coming back into production with approximately 6.0 million pullets reaching maturity during the week offset by flock depletion. The hen population producing eggs is now almost in balance relative to seasonal consumer demand but is depressed by lower industrial and food service off-take. Any number above 320 million hens in production during late fall at the outset of the holiday buying surge portends lower than average prices and increased inventory, unless matched by proportional increases in demand.

 

The total U.S. egg-flock was up 0.6 million to 326.5 million hens including second-cycle birds and those in molt. The difference of 3.9 million hens (7.1 million last week) between hens in production and total hens is equivalent to 1.2 percent of the national flock. This means that as molted hens have come back in production and young pullets commenced laying in anticipation of pre-Christmas demand, maximum production is now available from current housing. The EIC model predicted a flock size of 326 million hens in December and will probably be exceeded. The obvious reduction in hen numbers in Iowa and to a lesser extent among the next three largest producing states that commenced following the onset of COVID-19 in February is reverting to pre-COVID numbers in anticipation of the holiday period. Chick placement data suggests that 25 million pullets commenced production in November. This has implications for prices, given current supply and higher stock levels in relation to seasonal demand.


 

Instacart to File for an IPO

Passage of California Proposition #22 has provided operational security for delivery services and companies making use of the “gig economy”.

 

Following a $200 million infusion of capital, Instacart claims a valuation of $17 billion. It is possible that the proposed Instacart IPO was stimulated by a similar move by DoorDash.  Although this company has previously specialized in deliveries from restaurants, it may enter the grocery delivery space.

 

Instacart has a presence in 5,500 cities and has the potential to reach over 80 percent of households in the U.S.  The company has business relationships with 150 retailers operating 8,000 stores.  Instacart has commissioned Goldman Sachs to be the lead for the IPO anticipated during the first quarter of 2020. 

 


 

BioChek Group Appoints CEO

Thomas Struckmeyer has been appointed CEO of the BioChek Group comprising BioChek in Holland and BioTecon Diagnostics GmbH of Germany.  The transition to new leadership will occur during mid-December, with Struckmeyer succeeding founder Barend van Dam, who will assume the position of Chairman of the Supervisory Board.

 

Struckmeyer has more than 20 years of management experience in the diagnostics industry with a focus on food safety and animal health.  He was most recently Vice President of Strategy and Business Development and CEO of IdentiGen. 

 


Thomas Struckmeyer

Van Dam stated, “I am looking forward to handing over my responsibilities to Thomas.  With his deep insight in all areas of the diagnostic business, his strong customer focus and track record in successfully developing existing and new businesses, he is the ideal person to continue the successful development of the BioChek group.”


 

Walmart to Exit Seiyu Supermarket Chain in Japan

Walmart intends to dispose of its majority shareholding in the Seiyu supermarket chain in Japan to KKR and Co. and Rakuten who will purchase 65 percent and 20 percent of equity respectively.  The Seiyu chain involves 300 stores including supermarkets, hypermarkets, and general merchandise units. Seiyu has been majority-owned and controlled by Walmart since 2008.

 

KKR will provide financing with Rakuten applying their extensive digital expertise necessary for Seiyu to establish a strategic growth plan for an omnichannel presence in Japan. The Company will have to transition from conventional brick and mortar to online.  This trend is influenced by the occurrence of COVID, effectively controlled in Japan but a constant concern for consumers.


 

Major Grocery Chains Offering Additional Positions for Personal Shoppers

Walmart among the major grocery chains with omnichannel distribution is offering additional seasonal employment to personal shoppers.  On November 18th Walmart announced that it would hire 160,000 seasonal personnel to support demand for click-and-collect and ex-store delivery. 

 

The rapidly increasing incidence of COVID-19 has created a disinclination to shop in stores and to take advantage of special delivery offers that include features such as in-garage delivery and expedited service especially in areas with a high population density.  Walmart claim to have recently hired 20,000 seasonal associates for fulfillment centers.  Other chains are relying on seasonal hires and automation both in distribution centers and newly designated “dark stores” to provide alternatives to traditional in-store shopping.


 

Ahold Delhaize to Acquire FreshDirect

Ahold Delhaize a multinational with an extensive presence in the U.S. has announced that it will acquire Fresh Direct located in New York.  Centerbridge Partners will be a 20 percent minority investor.  It is anticipated that FreshDirect will retain its image and brand name and will now be in position to expand.  The company is unique in that fresh food represents 60 percent of sales and it deals directly with farmers to source products. In operation for over 20 years, FreshDirect has developed unique systems to provide service to consumers including rush and same-day delivery.  Ahold Delhaize is rapidly developing an omnichannel approach to grocery sales and recognizes the scalability of the FreshDirect model. 

 

Frans Muller, CEO of Ahold Delhaize stated, “FreshDirect is a leading local brand of the fast-growing online grocery sector in the New York City metro area.  One of the most important      E-commerce food markets in the United States.”  He continued, “It is a great addition and fit for our portfolio of leading local brands.  The deal allows us to reach additional customers in the New York trade area and therefore will add incremental sales to the business.”

 

Ahold Delhaize operates the Food Lion, Giant Food, Hannaford and Stop & Shop banners in the U.S.  It operates 2,000 stores in 23 states in addition to Peapod home delivery.

 

For the most recently completed fiscal year, comparative store sales for Ahold Delhaize in the  U.S. increased by 12 percent with 115 percent growth in online sales for the third quarter.


 

AstraZeneca- Oxford Vaccine Effective in Phase III Trial

An initial statement from AstraZeneca on their COVID-19 vaccine candidate AZD1222 indicates that data confirming efficacy would be available by late December. The Phase III trial on the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine commenced in August and was conducted in Brazil, South Africa, the UK and the U.S. Initial evaluation confirms that the vaccine was immunogenic in elderly recipients. This is considered to be an important criterion of an effective vaccine.  The preliminary report on safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine based on Phase 1/2 evaluation was published in The Lancet in July*.

 

Development of the vaccine commenced in January 2020 and the product is based on simian adenovirus as a vector for SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The mode of stimulating antibody is distinct from the mRNA technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.

The UK Medicines and Health Care Products Regularity Agency (equivalent to the U.S. FDA) has initiated a review of the AstraZenaca-Oxford vaccine.  AstraZeneca proposes to produce two billion doses of AZD1222 while awaiting approval.  Of this total, four hundred million doses will be distributed in the U.S. and the UK with the remainder for low-income nations.  The vaccine was developed partly with Warp Speed funding of $1 billion.

 

Folegatti, P.M. et al. Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: A preliminary report of a Phase 1/2, single-blind, placebo controlled trial. The Lancet.doi.org/10.106/S0140-6736(20)31604-4 July 20, 2020


 

FDA Authorizes Lucira COVID-19 Home Test Kit

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency authorization for the Lucira COVID-19 all-in-one test kit.  The system uses loop-mediated isothermal amplification with single tube detection with a simple reader that provides a qualitative (positive/negative) readout.

 

The manufacturers claim a 94 percent positive predictive value and 98 percent negative predictive value compared to standard PCR.  Sensitivity and specificity data has yet to be released.

 

The system will be available for patients 14 years and older and will require a prescription.  Projected cost is $50 per test that is acceptable for physician's office diagnosis but too expensive for regular self-home testing.

 

Lucira information can be obtained from the manufacturers' website <info@lucirahealth.com>.

 


 

Japan Facing Escalating HPAI Loses in Kagawa Prefecture

The sixth and seventh farms in Kagawa Prefecture confirmed to have been infected with an H5 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus have undergone depletion.  Collectively the two units housed 850,000 birds.  The farms, which are in close proximity, are adjacent to Mitoyo City.  Authorities previously advised farmers to report any indication of elevated mortality resulting in the diagnoses.

 

As reported previously in EGG-NEWS, Kagawa Prefecture is at seasonal risk for avian influenza as it is located on a major flyway with wetlands that attract migratory waterfowl serving as reservoirs of avian influenza.

 

Previous outbreaks of avian influenza occurred in the Prefecture during the winter of 2018.


 

Sweden Reports HPAI in a Turkey Flock

Following outbreaks of H5N8 avian influenza in Germany, The Netherlands, U.K., and Denmark, Sweden has reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a flock of turkeys in the region of Skane.  A representative of the Department of Agriculture in confirming the case noted that surveillance is underway and that further cases may be detected.

 

The epidemiologic pattern during the late fall of 2020 has been a pattern of recovery of H5N8 virus from dead and living migratory waterfowl or raptors followed by sporadic outbreaks in non-confined poultry.  Based on previous episodes of highly pathogenic avian influenza in recent years, authorities have justifiably established surveillance programs. Following detection of avian influenza farmers have been advised to confine flocks to prevent contact between migratory birds that are reservoirs  of the the virus and susceptible commercial flocks.

 


 

Denmark Diagnoses HPAI in Layer Flock

According to USDA-GAIN report DA2020-0015 released on November 19th, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration reported an outbreak of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza in a flock of 25,000 commercial layers.  The farm is located near the city of Randers on the Island of East Jutland.

 

As with a number of outbreaks in Western Europe, H5N85N8 AI virus was isolated from a wild bird, in this case a peregrine falcon, prior to a commercial outbreak.  It is presumed that the falcon was infected through contact with migratory waterfowl or other free-living birds.  On November 10th poultry producers in Denmark were advised to confine their flocks.

 

The infected commercial flock was depleted, and surveillance was initiated in accordance with the requirements of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). 

 

It is anticipated that nations importing poultry products from Denmark will impose embargoes that may involve the affected region or depending on policy, the entire exporting nation.  Denmark is a supplier of processed chicken to the Republic of South Africa, South Korea and Singapore in addition to neighboring EU nations.


 

Commentary


California Leads in Establishing Workplace Standards to Prevent COVID-19

The Board of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL/OSHA) has voted to implement protocols to protect employees from COVID-19 in the workplace.  In the absence of clearly defined recommendations from the Federal OSHA, California has proactively established standards to guide employers in agriculture, food production and industrial operations.

Under emergency regulations, employers not currently covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard must:-

 

  • Establish and commit to writing a COVID-19 prevention program for employees appropriate to the facility
  • Identify COVID-19 hazards with relevant input from employees
  • Investigate cases of COVID-19 and establish an effective program of tracing and quarantine
  • Report all cases of COVID-19 to public health departments.
  • Special provisions are required to transport workers involving screening, separation and the use of face masks

 

 In the event of an ascending incidence rate in a facility, regular testing of all employees will be required.  This is based on the recognition that asymptomatic carriers can be responsible for dissemination of virus.

 

It is anticipated that the incoming Administration will issue nationwide rules to enhance workplace safety.  Politco reported that introduction of a National Emergency Temporary Standard will be vigorously opposed as has occurred in California.  The California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association have already raised objections claiming infeasibility and cost to enforce the proposed regulations.

 

It is evident that unless the incidence rate of COVID can be reduced to more acceptable levels through workplace safety and concurrent precautions applied in communities, restoration of the economy and resumption of what might be considered a ‘new normal’ will be impossible.

 

Despite the statistics that confirm at least 13 million diagnosed cases and more than 260,000 fatalities and as many as 100,000 in hospital there are many in our society that believe COVID-19 is a hoax or accept that it will simply "go away".  We are now past the time for political rhetoric and misinformation disseminated on the internet. Action by state agencies such as California and the anticipated standards to be issued by the incoming Administration will be instrumental in reducing morbidity and mortality from COVID until an effective vaccine is widely administered.

 

In the interim, it is necessary to practice proven preventive measures including masking, avoiding large gatherings and social distancing. According to some models the simple expedient of universal masking in public could potentially save 150,000 lives by the beginning of March.


 

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Dr. Simon M. Shane
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