COVID-19 Information Resources
COVID-19 Information Resources
Bottled water during the COVID-19 pandemic
Demand for bottled water has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet this surge in demand, IBWA member companies have expanded production in order to provide their home and office customers and retail consumers with the bottled water they need.
In addition, bottled water companies are donating bottled water to charitable community organizations and other groups. As examples: bottler member Aqua Filter Fresh, Inc. came to the aid of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Police Department, supplying bottled water that was handed out along with 340 large pizzas for a social distancing drive-through party in Wilmerding, a town financially hard-hit by the pandemic. Primo Water North America is contributing to the United Way’s efforts to help people in need with food, shelter, and critical services, along with donating water to hospitals, first responders, and food banks in highly impacted U.S. communities.
In New York City, Niagara Bottling has donated more than a half a million bottles of water to relief efforts, as well as bottled water for numerous hospitals, food banks, and shelters throughout the United States. Danone Waters of America has also stepped in to provide support to New York City, donating almost 500,000 bottles of water for those working on the frontlines at local hospitals. Nestlé Waters—in addition to donating water to communities in New York City; Flint, Michigan; and other locations—is providing bottles to local distilleries (distinguishable from bottles that contain water) to be filled with hand sanitizer for healthcare workers, first responders, and the public.
IBWA’s member companies are working tirelessly around the clock to ensure bottled water products are available to consumers. They’ve done this by:
- increasing bottling capacity
- acquiring extra packaging and materials
- working with retailers to determine demand
- hiring additional drivers and bottling plant workers
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What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the virus 2019-nCoV, more commonly known as Novel Coronavirus. Novel Coronavirus is known as one among a large family of coronaviruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
COVID-19 has affected hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and has been described as a new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. Common signs of COVID-19 infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small respiratory droplets, which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, WHO recommends regular hand washing; covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing; not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; thoroughly cooking meat and eggs; and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Has COVID-19 been detected in drinking water? No.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Water Transmission and COVID-19 webpage addressed COVID-19 transmission through drinking water stating that “COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
According to Drinking Water Research Foundation (DWRF) Trustee Dr. Eugene Rice, “Bottled water produced using multiple barrier treatments—such as filtration, disinfection, and reverse osmosis—during processing should also remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Can COVID-19 be transmitted via food or food packaging? No.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC have stated there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted by food or food packaging, which would include bottled water. FDA issued the following statement on February 27, 2020, concerning COVID-19 and food products:
“We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.”
In addition, the CDC’s website has a Frequently Asked Questions webpage that includes a “How It Spreads” section with the following information on whether the COVID-19 virus can be spread through food:
“Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. . . In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks.”
What actions can I take to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19?
The FDA and CDC have recommended [https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html] many commonsense actions by industries and the public, including:
- Hand washing and sanitizing, and general good hygiene practices.
- Encourage employees with symptoms of respiratory illnesses to stay at home.
- If you do not currently have a telework policy, you may want to consider implementing one where possible at least for a period until the threat is mitigated.
- Limit travel, especially to regions identified by CDC and the State Department as being at-risk for COVID-19 infection.
- Review the business continuity section of your food defense plan to become familiar with possible disruptions caused by local outbreaks. If your supply chain relies on materials or products from China or other affected regions, plan for alternative sources of those materials.
Are recalls on food anticipated? No.
FDA does not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market because of COVID-19. FDA reaches this conclusion because “there is currently no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.”
In addition, facilities are required to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. For example, facilities are required to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces.
What steps should an employer take when an employee tests positive for COVID-19?
FDA advises that if an employee in a food processing facility tests positive for COVID-19, facilities should take the following steps to ensure the foods they produce are safe:
- Inform fellow employees of the possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, while maintaining confidentiality.
- Instruct sick employees to follow the CDC’s “What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) guidance.”
- Re-double cleaning and sanitation efforts to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill, regardless of the type of virus or bacteria.
- Consult with the local health department for additional guidance, including whether to request other workers who may have been exposed to the worker who tested positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The FDA guidance also addresses whether a food facility must close after an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, advising that “food facilities need to follow protocols set by local and state health departments, which may vary depending on the amount of community spread of COVID-19 in a given area.” FDA says that these decisions will be based on public health risk of person-to-person transmission—not based on food safety. FDA reaches this conclusion because “there is currently no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.”
What does the FDA recommend for service industry workers who deal with the public?
The FDA recommends the following actions for service industry workers who deal with the general public:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
What can food companies do?
The affect COVID-19 is having changes daily, if not hourly. Food companies are encouraged to continue monitoring developments at that national and state levels, keeping a close eye on how restrictions and curfews could affect their operations. Anticipating that potential lockdowns or curfews could affect your ability to deliver product, companies may find it helpful to provide employees/carriers with a letter confirming that individual is traveling to or from a food facility or transporting food materials in the event he/she is questioned by local authorities. IBWA members can contact IBWA for a sample letter designed to inform the reader that the person is a Critical Infrastructure Sector worker. Note, however, such a letter does not guarantee that an individual or shipment will be permitted to proceed under any state or local restriction.
State Business Closures
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, states have begun to take action in closing non-essential businesses. In accordance with federal guidelines, the manufacturing and delivery of bottled water is considered life-sustaining and essential and this exempt from closure. However, there could be other businesses that your company relies upon that might be impacted by these actions. Please refer to individual state lists for what is considered essential and non-essential. Inform any supplier you may work with to also review the list and if they determine they are being considered non-essential to contact the state for a waiver.
Here is a list of the most recent states that are imposing closure of non-essential businesses.
Shelter-In-Place Executive Order
In effect: Thursday, March 19, 2020
Governor Gavin Newsom and the director of the California Department of Public Health are ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction. Essential services will remain open, such as gas stations; pharmacies; food (grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants); banks; and laundromats/laundry services.
In effect: 5:00 p.m. Saturday, March 21, 2020
Governor JB Pritzker has signed a statewide stay-at-home order, aiming to keep new cases of COVID-19 from rapidly increasing and ensure the state’s health care system remains fully operational to treat patients in need of urgent care. Food and beverage production is exempt.
In effect: 12:00 pm, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Governor Charlie Baker has announced a stay-at-home advisory until April 7: “All non-essential businesses ordered to close beginning at noon on Tuesday.” During this time grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. All roads remain open. Grocery stores, wholesalers, and every company involved in the delivery of necessities will be allowed, including food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees.
Stay Home, Stay Safe Order
In effect: 12:01 am, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Governor Whitmer has issued a Stay Home, Stay Safe Order (“Order”) for the State of Michigan to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Executive Order 2020-21 goes into effect on March 24 at 12:01 am and stays into effect until April 13 at 11:59 pm. The Order specifies “[n]o person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence except to the extent that those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations.” Food, agriculture, water, and wastewater are deemed critical infrastructure and are exempt.
IBWA Media Statement
What people need to know about bottled water during COVID-19 outbreak
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions
What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations
Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza – United States 2017
Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions
Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy Regarding Preventive Controls and FSVP Food Supplier Verification Onsite Audit Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
FMCSA Expands National Emergency Declaration for Commercial Vehicles Delivering Relief in Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak
H.R.6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act – signed into law on March 6