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COVID-19 Briefing - June 16, 2020

Understanding the latest on China's salmon ban, testing strategy for return to work, and a whole lot of positive COVID cases nationwide.

Today’s Recap:

  • Positives everywhere… FL TX, AZ, NM, OK, CA, OR, UT.  We are seeing major spikes in community spread, and hearing continued stories of parties, family gatherings, and other examples of relaxed social distancing leading to clusters of positive cases. Kaiser Health News reports that many of these are directly correlated with lifted stay-at-home orders. 

  • You’ve likely heard the news in the past 24 hours about China’s ban on imported salmon after suspected links to a regional COVID outbreak. While the CDC and FDA still firmly say that there is no evidence that COVID is foodborne, we’re keeping a close eye on this as it develops. Right now, the evidence is so limited (the virus was found on a few cutting boards used to gut salmon in a market) that we’re not suggesting that you make any changes to your current practices. 

  • Flushing the toilet can spread the Coronavirus up to 3.5 feet and linger in the air as aerosolized particles for minutes after a flush. This reiterates the need for frequent cleaning and sanitizing of bathrooms, including toilet seats and stall walls. This can also be easily mitigated by closing the toilet lid, if possible. Ladies, as if we needed any more justification for asking men to put the toilet seat down…

Best Questions of the Day:

When someone lives with a COVID+, should we be excluding an employee for 14 days from the date their sick roommate tested positive, or from the date that they recover?

This is a tricky question, and one that the CDC has not been clear about in their guidelines. The reality of making the decision to exclude for 14 days starting from after a family member or roommate has recovered means that someone in that situation will be out a minimum of 24 days, and possibly longer, if they never develop symptoms. 

For now, many of our clients are choosing to start the 14 day count from a positive test result, or lacking that, from symptom onset, if the exposure is ongoing. We have also asked our contacts at the CDC to weigh in on this question with a definitive recommendation, and will update you all as soon as they get back to us on that.

Should we be excluding for domestic airline travel at this point? What about international? 

For domestic travel, we’re generally allowing folks to return to work (even if they traveled by plane) unless their point of departure or destination have specific requirements - this needs to be researched down to the town and county level in some cases because the restrictions we’re seeing are so hyper-local. For example, in April, Florida was mandating a 14-day quarantine for someone traveling from the NY-NJ-CT tri-state area, but one town within the city of Miami had more stringent quarantine requirements from dozens of other states. Many if not most of these are relaxing now, but it’s still important not to get caught off-guard. We had one client arrive at a destination airport only to be told they needed to quarantine for 14 days or turn around. 

As for international travel, the CDC is still recommending 14-day self isolation for all international airplane travel. We have not been recommending quarantine for those who cross borders to Mexico or Canada by car. 

If an employee calls out sick with COVID symptoms, should we start excluding those they had close contact with, or wait til they have a positive test?

Not yet - you’ll only need to start excluding folks who had close contact ( spent 15+ consecutive mins within 6ft) if they test positive. In the meantime, make sure that you’re doing daily employee wellness checks to ensure that employees are staying home when sick. 

If a customer calls to say that they tested positive and ate at our restaurant, what do we need to do?

It’s highly unlikely that any one of your employees spent 15 straight minutes within 6 feet of a single guest, so in this case, we suggest just holding tight. It’s possible that the local health department will reach out after they do contact tracing, and at that point you should be cooperative and work with them (and chat with us for advice!).

If an employee is recovered from COVID (and has tested negative after their initial positive result) but has a lingering cough, can they return to work?

There are major concerns around the optics of letting someone work with a cough. At this point, our recommendation is to keep someone out until their cough, fever, and shortness of breath are resolved. If other symptoms linger (like loss of taste or smell which can persist for weeks or months), those should be considered on a case by case basis. 

If an employee was exposed at another job, can they work? Do we need to exclude other employees they have had close contact with? 

If an employee has spent 15+ consecutive minutes within 6ft of a confirmed COVID+ person, they should be excluded for 14 days from their most recent exposure, whether that was outside of work, at another job, or anywhere else. Be sure to ask questions to ensure that they were excluded from work at their other job specifically for that - sometimes another job might have excluded everyone who worked that day regardless of whether they had close contact with the positive person, for example. Make sure you understand the details of their direct exposure and make decisions based on that. 

Best Read of the Day:

There’s growing consensus that you catch COVID by spending prolonged, face-to-face time with a person. 

How Exactly Do You Catch Covid-19? There Is a Growing Consensus

Best Laugh of the Day:


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