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COVID-19 Briefing - Friday, 11/20

200k cases, at-home testing, and more.

Today's Recap:


Best Questions:

Any idea where different kinds of employers will fall with vaccine distribution?

The final determination for categories or groups for vaccine distribution will be up to the ACIP. (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices).  Some of you may have heard Dr. LJ Tan, who spoke on our October webinar and is a member of the ACIP, discuss how they decide who gets vaccines.  Different organizations have made different recommendations and there are advocacy groups working hard to get their constituencies moved up in the timeline.  Here’s a good summary of where it all stands from USA Today.

What is the average onset time for symptoms post exposure?

Well..good question and one we’re being asked frequently as you all struggle with employees excluded for the full incubation period of 14 days,  The first reports from the CDC and their website continues to report that onset is generally 4 to 5 days after exposure, but a newer study from NIH says it might be closer to 8.1 (mean) or 8.6 (median) days on average.  Anecdotally, our team, who reviews hundreds of thousands of electronic wellness checks every week saw a huge surge on the Thursday after Halloween (day 5) but continued to see uptick until day 11. Remember, these numbers are generally averages, which means that nearly half of people will get sick after day 5 or day 8. The unfortunate reality is that we do need to wait a full 14 days because some people will get sick on day 14...

What is the false negative rate of PCR lab tests?

Nearly all of the tests we are currently using (both PCR and rapids) were designed to be used for symptomatic patients so they are less accurate in asymptomatic ones who may have lower viral loads. A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine reports a PCR false negative rate that ranges from 2-29%.  And that doesn’t take into account that testing needs to occur on the right day - not too soon for infection to be detected.  

My employees are asking about testing to feel safe at work. What should I be saying to them?

Unfortunately, until we have a national testing plan, and until experts address testing capacity, turnaround time and costs, employee testing is very challenging and can lead to a false sense of security.  There are some industries with higher profit margins who are unable to work socially distanced or in masks who developed comprehensive plans to return to work (like the NBA, the NFL, or the movie industry).  But for general employment purposes for most of us, we’re not there yet to include regular, meaningful, accurate and timely testing for employees.  And the newest information shows rapid tests are even less accurate than we thought, especially for those who have no symptoms.  It can only be effective as a tool when everyone gets tested on a regular schedule, and even then it has severe limitations.

Best Read:

This week marks the 1 year anniversary since the first coronavirus case occurred in Wuhan.

It's Been Exactly One Year Since the First Case of COVID Was Found in China

Best Laugh:

Remember to stay safe this holiday season!

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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.