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COVID-19 Briefing - 9/25

FL lifts all business restrictions, 23 states see rising case counts, & Salmonella outbreaks continue

Today’s Recap:

  • The CDC issued guidance for how to celebrate Halloween (there will be lots of disappointed ghouls and goblins this year, we expect…).

  • United Airlines will offer rapid tests for travelers, provided through Abbott. It’s unclear whether those are the “ID Now” Abbot tests, which we mentioned in a previous roundup are now theoretically only intended for use for symptomatic patients and have high false negative rates. 

  • 23 states report  rising COVID rates today and we’re nearing 7 million cases nationwide. This is far from over.

  • NY Gov. Cuomo said that New York will review any virus vaccines before distributing them due to the politicization of the process.

  • Meanwhile, Florida lifted all restrictions on businesses, meaning that restaurants and bars can operate at full capacity indoors and out, and there are no limits on the size of gatherings.

  • Salmonella outbreaks are abounding right now, related to backyard poultry (as more people raise chickens at home during quarantine) and a specific brand of Wood Ear mushrooms.

  • A certain type of auto-antibody may explain why some patients develop life-threatening COVID-19 complications versus others with more mild outcomes, according to a new study.

Best Questions:

Why would an employee’s exclusion for close contact shorten?

There are several reasons that an exclusion may be reduced. Most often, it is because the employee developed symptoms during their quarantine. The quarantine period is 14 days because it can take that up to long to become ill with COVID-19 after they’ve been exposed. If a person becomes sick, then their exclusion is moved to 10 days from their symptom onset.

Are we responsible for enforcing travel quarantine?

No.  You’ve probably heard us say over and over again that we can’t give legal advice.  But this question has come up over and over again, and we’ve spoken with many clients’ corporate counsels.  Travel quarantines are enforced by state health departments.  There are many reasons that employees may not need to comply with a travel quarantine - reasons that aren’t employment related issues (critical family illness, death in a family, there less than 36 hours, allowed to negative test out in that jurisdiction).  Your collective experience is that travel quarantines are not clinical issues or employment issues and that you’ve got enough on your plates related to COVID without enforcing guidelines that you are not required to enforce.  

Is everyone else seeing more illness, more COVID symptoms, and issues with school exclusions?

Yes! We’ve seen a major uptick in illness among our clients over the past 3 weeks or so, many of which are related to students being back at school and school-based exclusions. That said, we’re also starting to see more non-COVID illnesses like e.Coli, Strep, and others, which may have a shorter work exclusion time for employees than cut and dry COVID cases. The uptick is likely due to people starting to gather more, indoors, as we head into the fall. 

If a student is contacted about a case at their school, do we need to automatically exclude them from work?

Not necessarily. If they were told that they had direct contact with someone who was COVID+ for 15+ mins within 6ft, and that they should quarantine, then yes, they’ll need to be excluded from work. But sometimes schools exclude a whole cohort when one person tests positive, even if this employee didn’t have direct contact with that person. In those cases, exclusion may not be necessary. Generally, we recommend getting as much detailed information as possible and making a case by case determination. If the employee had direct contact with a COVID+ case, they should be out. If they are under quarantine orders from a public health official, they should be out. If they didn’t have direct contact and haven’t been contacted by a contact tracer from a public health department, they may not need to be excluded. 

Best Read:  

You often ask us questions about testing accuracy.  And the high false negative rate makes people question positives.  This is an excellent blog post from a Guardian reporter that addresses why most positives are just that.  Explains a lot about testing.

Most Positive Coronavirus Tests Are True Positives 

Best Laugh:

And last, we’re hosting a webinar for our clients on Flu and COVID: What Employers Need to Know. You’re all invited to join us on Wednesday, October 7th at 3pm EST. Feel free to share with anyone on your team that might be interested. Register here!

Have a great weekend

Disclaimer: This post 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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