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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 1/26

Will vaccines protect against the new variants? More on variants, double masking, and travel restrictions.

Today's Recap:

Best Questions:

If a local health department requires a 14-day quarantine for illness, do we need to follow that?

Yes, we strongly recommend following the specific recommendation of local and state health departments. Although the CDC issues general guidance, each state and local health department issues guidelines for their jurisdiction. As an example, Fairfax County, VA is requiring a 14-day quarantine for those who have COVID symptoms. 

Are health departments reacting differently to positive tests that confirm one of the variants?

Many of you have had variations of this question over the last 36 hours. First, let’s talk about testing for variants. We do not have a robust system for testing for variants in the US, so we aren’t seeing many confirmed variants. However, what we are seeing is genome sequencing, which identifies variants (in CT, tests are sent to Yale and in MN, tests are sent to the state lab). Some health departments have required a 14-day exclusion for an employee who has been confirmed positive with the UK variant (also known as B117). In separate instances, we’ve seen health departments require broader and longer close contact exclusions. Stay tuned... Much more to come on this subject matter as we learn more about variants and ramp up genome sequencing to track them. 

A manager who had tested positive said his doctor told him that it was a false positive. Can we clear this employee?

Well...we have many questions!  How would the clinic know it’s a false positive?  Did it send a second specimen to a lab for PCR testing and that’s what came back negative? Can the clinic send a copy of that result? We’re running into all kinds of new situations regarding COVID testing ranging from people saying all kinds of things to get back to work and others saying all sorts of things to get out of it. Minimally, we would require a negative PCR result to even further the discussion with the employee. Unless we have extremely compelling evidence that this was a false positive on a rapid test followed by at least one negative PCR test and NO symptoms or close contact with someone sick, we would treat this as a genuine positive result. False positives are still much more rare than false negatives, even for rapid tests.

Any recommendations for communicating about vaccination with our employees? 

Vaccines have successfully eliminated or reduced the spread of many infectious diseases in the U.S., but many people are hesitant to get them for a variety of reasons, including severe allergies, religious beliefs and misinformation about their necessity or efficacy. You have your work cut out for you, but it’s key to tap into the resources you already have and get started soon, even if your employees won’t be eligible to get their vaccine for a few more months. 

Check out our new COVID Vaccination Communication Action Plan here, or in the app. 

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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.