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COVID-19 Briefing - 10/9

Hotspots with rising case counts, effective messaging, and more

Today’s Recap:

  • Well… you’ve had a lot of COVID this week (a whole lot!). We’re seeing a combination of positive tests, COVID-like symptoms, and close contacts.  And you’ve excluded a large number of employees through your contact tracing. 
  • We’re seeing hotspots in Upstate NY (Broome County), NC, IL and WI, among others.  And a surge in MN immediately following the rally there. 
  • Utah reported a 21% increase in COVID cases over the last 14 days just as the governor announced quarantined kids could return to school after 7 days if they test negative on day 7 or later which doesn’t align with most other guidance.
  • This week’s early release of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows that young people under 24 years old are transmitting the virus first in hot spots
  • In the other MMWR early release, a small study showed that 18-23 year olds are more likely to engage in risky behavior that exposes them to infections because they believe COVID won’t be serious for them, are motivated by peer pressure, and are exposed to misinformation, conflicting messages, or opposing views regarding masks.
  • Today, the Rockefeller Foundation released  a powerful new report on effective COVID messaging.  The messages that resonate most are about responsibility: “Do your part,”  “Do it for them,” and “Do it before it's too late.”
  • The CDC and NIOSH worked together on a study on the efficacy of different face coverings, and found that face masks and gaiters provide significantly better protection from the aerosol of a cough than face shields. 
  • In some really good news, COVID-19 helped us wash our hands.  The odds of adults remembering to wash hands after coughing, sneezing, and blowing their nose were 2.3x higher, plus 2x higher before eating at a restaurant, and 1.7x higher before eating at home than pre-COVID.
  • Pregnant women may experience COVID symptoms for longer but generally don’t get quite that sick. 
  • A digital health passport is being tested by airlines as a way for travelers to document their COVID-19 status as part of countries’ entry requirements.
  • Abbott touted new study results supporting the accuracy of its rapid ID NOW test, which the White House had used for screening staff and visitors. However, other studies show less accuracy for positive results for the same test, and this doesn’t address the high rates of false negatives associated with rapid tests.
  • Meanwhile, Nevada has halted rapid testing in nursing homes after inaccuracies. These specific tests have a high rate of false positives, which are generally very rare.
  • The Governor of CA reminded diners to wear their mask between bites when eating out at a restaurant this week. But as many pointed out, this doesn’t match up with the WHO’s recommendations (and even some recs from the state of CA) which say to minimize the number of times you put on/take off your mask. Our rec: keep your mask on til food comes, and put it on every time the server comes within 6ft. 
  • And McKinsey predicts the coming cold and flu season will drive demand for COVID testing threefold as people experience COVID-like symptoms. Winter is coming...
  • And in non-COVID news, certain fruits are under recall at Walmart and Meijer stores in several states due to possible contamination.

Best Questions:

Is it too early to get a flu shot?

No!  We’re already seeing confirmed flu, although still at low levels, in some areas.  But a flu shot takes two weeks to take effect once you’ve received it.  So, go get your flu shot this weekend.  

A roommate tested positive so we put our employee out for 14 days.... Now a second roommate just tested positive today (they were not isolating from each other). Do we have to start their 14 days over again?

Unfortunately, yes. Every single time someone is exposed within 6ft for 15+ minutes (or has other very close contact) to a COVID positive case, they need to self-isolate for 14 days because they could become sick at any point during that time, whether or not they have symptoms. 

The only exception to this rule is within the 90 days after a person has tested positive for COVID themselves, or if someone is routinely exposed (while wearing proper PPE) during a healthcare or first responder job. 

I’m really confused about the different kinds of COVID testing.  Which tests tell me that I need to exclude someone and start contact tracing?

Here’s a really good new tool from the FDA. Here’s the basic deal: if someone tests positive on a diagnostic test (Rapid/Antigen or PCR/Molecular), then they have an active infection. If they test positive on an Antibody (Serology) test, that just means they’ve had COVID at some point in the past, and doesn’t require a current exclusion unless the person has symptoms or a diagnostic test showing a currently active infection. 

A health department called our employee to tell them they were exposed to a positive coworker. Is that allowed? Does it violate HIPAA? 

Yes, health departments and contact tracing teams are permitted to call people directly to let them know they’ve been exposed to someone COVID+. It doesn’t violate HIPAA if a COVID+ person provides contact info for those they had close contact with, so that those people can be instructed to quarantine. In terms of privacy, most health departments, whether covered by HIPAA or not, will not reveal the name of the COVID+ person that someone had close contact with.

Best Read:

Getting other vaccines may help protect against COVID, according to the hypothesis of virologist Robert Gallo.

A Vaccine That Protects Against COVID-19 May Be Right Under Our Noses 

Best Laugh:

It’s Friday and I think we all kinda need a concert or a cocktail party or a movie night…

Disclaimer: This Executive Summary is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

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