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COVID-19 Briefing - Friday, 2/26

Johnson & Johnson vaccine news, temp checks and the return of Noro.

Today's Recap:

Best Questions:

Why do we need to track vaccines if we’re not offering incentives?

Vaccine tracking isn’t just for offering paid time or incentives. If there’s a positive COVID case in your business, you might be contacted by the local health department to provide a list of your employees and their vaccination status. Plus, having access to which of your employees are vaccinated can help you get those who are exposed back to work sooner, with new guidelines saying fully vaccinated people can skip quarantine for about 3 months after their second dose.  And there are other scenarios we can imagine: advertising to your customers that 90% of your workforce is vaccinated, or celebrating locations that reach a certain goal number of vaccinated employees. We’ve even heard clients talking about only scheduling vaccinated workers in the event of an outbreak at a specific location.

What can we do if there’s a stomach bug (or Norovirus) going around in our area?  

We’re starting to see Noro out there again, also known as a stomach bug, Norwalk virus, gastroenteritis or the stomach flu. Telltale symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea. Especially in college towns, you may hear about an outbreak before you see one, or have just one or two employees or guests who are sick. If there’s Noro in the area, we highly recommend cleaning your whole facility with an EPA-approved cleaning product for Noro (remember, Quat sanitizers don’t kill Noro!). Pay extra attention to bathroom cleanliness - especially handles and faucets. Step up employee handwashing, and ensure that every single employee takes a wellness check before they arrive on site so you can keep sick people at home. If any employees have sick roommates with Noro-like symptoms, keeping them out for at least two days would be best practice.  And lastly, make sure that any sick employees stay out until they’re completely recovered - for possible Noro you want them to be 48 hours symptom free to ensure they’re not spreading the virus to others.

Do we need to continue to conduct employee temperature checks?

You’ll need to check the guidance in each state you’re operating in to see if it remains part of that state’s most up-to-date operating requirements. Last April, when asked on an Nation's Restaurant News webinar if wellness and temperature checks were here to stay, we said that we believed wellness checks would become standard but that temp checks likely would not. That remains our view. COVID symptoms are wide ranging and fever is one of the most common symptoms. However, it often is not the first symptom. The medical group Sharp Rees-Stealy, a long time provider in our network, recently reported that 78% of COVID patients eventually have a fever. It doesn’t reach over 100.4°F in many people and is of very short duration for some. In short, temp checks only catch a very small portion of people who are sick, and require a lot of effort.

Why are temperature checks still as difficult as they were a year ago?

While some better devices have hit the market, they are still generally all infra-red thermometers. They read the skin temperature, which can change easily based on outside conditions. On a hot day, forehead skin could reach over 100° in the sun but lower after a few minutes sitting in air conditioning; on a cold day, someone with a fever might clock in at only 99° even if their true temp is over 100°. And don’t tell your employees this, but we happen to know that putting an ice pack on your forehead just beforehand can temporarily lower your temp enough to pass a check, even with a fever. There was a lot of media coverage back in the fall about how mediocre temp checks are since they don’t catch most COVID, and we think at some point in the next year or so they will fall to the wayside, leaving daily wellness checks as the primary (and much more effective) means of preventing sick people from entering your business.

Best Read:

Is Coronavirus Reinfection Possible? We still have big questions about transmission and reinfection. But reinfection is a potential serious issue moving forward - either from waning protection or mutating virus.

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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.