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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 1/19

Today's Recap:

  • The US officially surpassed 400,000 deaths from the Coronavirus. AZ, CA, and SC had the highest per capita cases over the past week.
  • 1 in 3 LA County residents has had COVID at some point, according to their health department.
  • Healthcare workers continue to refuse the vaccine at alarmingly high rates.  
  • West Virginia, which once led the way in COVID case counts, is now a leader of a different sort: vaccinating nursing home patients. In addition to CVS and Walgreens, who hold federal contracts, the state is using local pharmacies which already provided services to many of their local nursing homes.
  • Massachusetts cancelled their school-aged flu shot mandate following a mild flu season. We hope their flu cases continue to stay low - there are still another 12 weeks of flu season.
  • A third variant has been identified in a German hospital. Dubbed the Bavarian variant, we don’t know much about its transmissibility.
  • After allergic reactions at one clinic, California paused the use of one lot of the Moderna vaccine.  More than 330,000 doses from that lot are on hold at the moment until the FDA and CA health authorities take a closer look.
  • NY Governor Cuomo wants to buy the COVID vaccine directly from Pfizer, a NY company.  Pfizer says it would need HHS approval to sell directly to states. We’re not sure if this is just a publicity stunt or a way forward for a state that has cancelled tens of thousands of vaccination appointments after vaccine didn’t arrive at vaccination sites.
  • An independent panel has reviewed the virus outbreak and determined that the WHO and China could have been more forceful to prevent the pandemic.
  • COVID has resulted in another kind of surge: 'Tiny House' sales.

Best Questions:

An employee tested positive in December, but yesterday she became sick with a headache, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, runny nose, fever and a new loss of smell.  Could she have COVID again?  How should we exclude her?

This scenario has come up multiple times in the last few days. When the employee has had a lab-confirmed COVID positive result, s/he is considered immune for at least 90 days. So, in all likelihood, this person is either experiencing a recurrence of symptoms (but isn’t infectious) or another viral illness.  We’ve been excluding him/her for three days to allow 24 hours fever-free and see if other symptoms develop.  Occasionally, we suggest a doctor’s note if symptoms are severe or are not resolved after 3 days.  

Should someone who already had a confirmed case of COVID get vaccinated?  

Yes. The vaccination recommendations are based on age and risk factors, and it’s believed that COVID only provides 90 days of immunity.  You should NOT get vaccinated if you are currently sick (with COVID or anything else).  There is one very specific circumstance that requires delaying vaccination:  if you received monoclonal antibody infusion, you must wait at least 90 days to be vaccinated.  You must also delay if you’ve recently received other vaccinations (within the past 14 days for some viruses, longer for others).

Can employees who live in another state get vaccinated in the state they work in?

That’s a scenario that is already occurring and, so far, we’ve not seen any difficulty in employees being vaccinated in the states where they work (when it’s available). Residency requirements have not applied. Many of us here at ZHH work in CT and live in NY, and we registered for vaccination in CT.

How should we proceed with exclusions if a doctor indicates that a negative result was likely a false negative for a sick employee?

If a doctor believes it is a false negative and advises the employee to isolate, you should exclude the employee for 10 days from symptom onset.  These tests continue to have a significant false negative rate and providers now have much more experience in accurately diagnosing COVID based on symptoms and close contact. If an employee lives with family members who are positive and has symptoms, then you should proceed as if they have COVID regardless of testing status.

Are any of your clients making vaccinations mandatory?

At this point in time, no.  Many are working on plans to strongly encourage or incentivize vaccination and to assist employees in getting vaccinated.  However, there are employees who can’t take the vaccine because of allergies or religious reasons and others who refuse all vaccinations.  This continues to evolve and there may be some employers whose final policies will require vaccination. Stay tuned...

We read a flurry of stories last week about some larger employers providing incentives for employees to get vaccinated.  How widespread is that practice?

Last week, we included news about Instacart, Dollar General and Trader Joe’s announcing a variety of incentives (ranging from 2 to 4 hours PTO to $50 or smaller gift cards) for employees. Many employers are discussing this as they develop their vaccination policies. It is a significant added expense and the impact on vaccination uptake rates are still unknown. As we see data on the effectiveness of incentives in improving vaccination rates, we’ll share it.

Best Read:

Vaccine news is better than we think...

Best Laugh:

It’s been a rough week with vaccination mayhem, national news, and surges continuing. Thought we all could use more than one laugh today. These COVID dad jokes are pretty funny:

49 Coronavirus and Quarantine Jokes to Retrain Your Face to Smile

Photo: Iwamura/Associated Press

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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.