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COVID-19 Briefing - Friday, 2/19

Storm fallout, vaccine mandates, counterfeit N95s, foodborne illness outbreaks and more.

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Today's Recap:

Best Questions:

Can an employee always return to work on day 11 after a positive test?

Not always. Sometimes they still have symptoms which prevent them from working, or make co-workers and customers uncomfortable.  And there are certain jurisdictions with different return to work testing guidelines, like requiring a negative test, or, as in New York, not allowing return to work if someone chooses to get retested and tests positive again. In every case, you can’t return to work until 24 hours fever-free, and we recommend ensuring all respiratory and GI symptoms are fully resolved, which can often take longer than the 10 days.

Can we help employees schedule their COVID vaccinations?

We’re getting this question frequently. Scheduling COVID vaccinations can be complicated  and difficult, as is knowing if and when you’re eligible.  Most of our clients are providing employees  with good information on their eligibility and some are helping employees navigate the complexities of the scheduling process. Your liability in doing so is something to discuss with counsel.

How do we encourage employees who are frustrated in their ability to schedule a shot to either keep trying or to try again later?

This is where supporting employees with up to date info is key. It’s not a good communications plan to make the call to action “Schedule Your Shot Today!” when that’s not available yet. Tailoring employee comms for each state, minimally, can help clarify when it’s their turn. In California, maybe the call to action is “Sign up for MyTurn today to learn when it’s your turn to get the vaccine!.” In New York, maybe it’s “See if you’re eligible today!” In other places, maybe it’s something more passive and informative, like “We’re still in Phase 1b, but essential workers are eligible under 1c, which is up next! Stay tuned for more info about when you’ll be eligible for your vaccine under Phase 1c.” Again, we love this new tool from NPR and this resource from Littler to understand who’s eligible.

What if someone’s second dose gets delayed due to weather, shortages, or scheduling issues? How long can they delay?

Unfortunately, we’re starting to hear more about this. Just this week, Pennsylvania is scrambling to reschedule 120,000 second dose appointments after mistakenly using them for first dose appointments. With the extreme weather and power issues across the country, we expect many more second dose appointments will be rescheduled. The good news is that the CDC says you can delay up to 42 days after the first dose, if necessary. Of course, sticking as closely as possible to the recommended timing for the second dose is always best.

It seems like we heard a lot about vaccine incentives in the early days of vaccination and less so now.  What are your clients reporting more recently regarding incentives for vaccination?

We agree that we all heard a lot from a few major employers (and some minor ones) in the first few days after vaccines became a reality.  And we’ve heard very little in the last two weeks.  Clients who didn’t announce incentives early on are, for the most part, holding off at this point.  Many are taking a wait-and-see approach or have decided that they’ll compensate employees for time required to get the shots, but that education and good communication are their best plans of action to encourage vaccination. Still, we expect this to become more top of mind as we get through the initial hurdles of vaccine distribution and more workers are eligible to get vaccinated over the next 4-6 weeks.

Best Read:

Addressing vaccine hesitancy is one of our top concerns right now. This COVID-vaccine designer tackles hesitancy in her free time, in churches and on Twitter. Answering questions and explaining the science behind the vaccine are key to her approach.

Best Laugh:

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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.