Coping With COVID: An Outlook on the Future Impact

July 22, 2020

Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

After months of restrictions on business and sheltering in place, the country is gradually starting to open back up for business. Yet, in just a few weeks after restrictions started being lifted, nearly half the states are reporting increases in the number of coronavirus infections.

Deemed essential, grocers have remained open for the duration and have taken steps to keep their employees and customers safe. But when COVID cases increase among the general population, food retailers must remain ever vigilant in maintaining a high level of sanitation, safety and trust.

In a recent webinar hosted by the National Grocers Association, Dr. David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at the FDA and chief medical officer at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, now CEO of food safety consultancy The Acheson Group, discussed trends in the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus, potential trajectory of infections, vaccine development and supply chain risks.

Here are some key takeaways from that discussion:

Masks are your best bet for prevention: Coronavirus is an inherently weak, “wimpy” virus, Acheson said. Face coverings are effective because it’s spread by aerosol droplets. The virus does not appear to spread through HVAC systems, and while it does not survive well on contact surfaces, good sanitation procedures are still important.

Don’t let your guard down: Social distancing, working remotely and other precautions overall are working to stem the tide and should continue for at least a few more months, Acheson said, suggesting that the surge originally predicted for the fall may actually be occurring now.

Testing is effective, but …: Tests for the virus are about 98% accurate now, Acheson said. But, he cautioned that antibody tests are still not very reliable, and that folks who think they may have antibodies should think twice before they abandon masks and social distancing.

Vaccine? Be patient: Acheson doesn’t expect a cure-all to be waiting just around the corner; vaccines are inherently very difficult to manufacture and make safe enough for mass administration, he explained. But there is significant momentum in vaccine development. As for herd immunity, Acheson said it is a real thing and we may eventually get it, but we’re nowhere near having 70-80% of the population infected to achieve it.

Mutation is good: Most viruses mutate, and the strain of virus sweeping the U.S. is different from the one that originated in China. Acheson noted that as a virus mutates, it typically gets weaker. So even without a vaccine, the virus should continue to mutate and likely weaken over time, reducing the risk and allowing folks to get back to more normal lives.

To view this complete webinar and others in the series, visit: