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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 10/27

Cases surging nationwide and cities begin shutting down again...

Today's Recap:

  • COVID is surging everywhere. But especially: ND, SD, WI, MT, WY, ID, UT and AK.  And you have had hot spots in MI, OH, IA, and today, FL again!  
  • Denver raised its alert level to its 2nd highest and went back to closing gyms and going back to 25% capacity.  Chicago just closed indoor dining, and other IL counties are shutting down or rolling back, too.
  • Only 5% of hospital beds are available in Nashville, TN with transmission rates at their highest since early July.  And the lack of availability of hospital beds is what drove NM to implement its new response standards.
  • False positives, although less common than false negatives, can still be risky - especially when someone believes they’ve already recovered from COVID.  They often take risks they wouldn’t because they think they’re immune and become inadvertent spreaders.
  • “Pandemic fatigue” is real and likely partially fueling this surge.  (Two good and similar articles on this, a paywalled one from the WSJ and a free one from the NYT).
  • AstraZeneca resumed its COVID-19 vaccine trial in the US, and Johnson & Johnson will also likely restart this week. And vaccine distribution will include high levels of security amid concerns about theft, according to some new reports.
  • Males, young people, and anyone who has not had personal experience with COVID are less likely to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, according to the MMWR.
  • At the same time as NY announced recommendations to verify Abbott ID NOW rapid test results (both positive and negative results), Nevada was forced to walk back its ban on rapid tests for nursing homes.
  • A new study on an extended family who vacationed together really tells us a lot about how this disease spreads. Everyone tested negative before traveling. A 13 year old developed symptoms and over the next three weeks, 12 of 14 family members developed symptoms and 11 tested positive.  Interestingly, 6 other family members visited but only outdoors and socially distant, and none became infected.
  • The CDC’s recent change in definition of close contact to “6 feet for 15 minutes or more within a 24 hour period”  is strongly based on a single criticized study in a correctional facility with one corrections officer, six positive inmates and video of their interactions over a 24 hour period. The public health community has been critical of the study design, especially that it doesn’t take into consideration that one guard may have had other exposure.

Best Questions:

What does an inconclusive COVID result mean and how should we handle it?

Generally, an inconclusive COVID result means that something went wrong during the test - maybe the sample was collected improperly or got dropped, or the machine malfunctioned. It doesn’t mean much of anything but it certainly does NOT mean the same as a negative test. Someone should treat an inconclusive test as if they never had one, and should go get another test - and remain out of work if they have symptoms!

We have lots of employees being notified that their sports coach or a teammate they don’t hang out with tested positive.  If the school excluded them out of an abundance of caution, should we?  If the school didn’t exclude them, should we?

This is a tough one. If they are currently being asked to quarantine at home by their school, we generally recommend that they are excluded from work, as well. It doesn’t look good if customers were to find out that the person ringing them up can’t be at school but can be working in your stores. Clinically, we may or may not agree with the reasoning that the school used, but we likely want to exclude any time someone has been told by an organization to self-quarantine.

A school, church, or a neighboring employer told a large group of people that they were potentially exposed, but didn’t specifically tell my employee they were in close contact or that they needed to quarantine. Do I need to exclude this employee?

This is a tough question and one that can’t be easily answered without additional information.  It is highly unlikely that hundreds of people were in close contact for 15+ minutes.  There have been some circumstances where a single teacher, pastor or someone who greeted everyone tested positive and the entire group needed to quarantine.  But it is more likely that there is a smaller subgroup who should be quarantined. This person should be cleared to work, unless they were told that they were within 6ft for 15 or more minutes with a confirmed COVID+ person, or they’ve been specifically ordered to quarantine by the organization or by a public health official. They should definitely monitor themselves closely for any symptoms and stay home if they notice any symptoms.

If a child is told to quarantine for a school exposure, does the whole family have to quarantine?

Not if the child doesn’t have any symptoms. We don’t recommend excluding employees from work for what we call “second-hand” exposure (they are two degrees of separation away from the sick person). But as soon as that child tests positive or develops symptoms of their own, that’s a different story and then the employee themself will need to be excluded for close contact with someone sick.

If a significant other is told to quarantine for a possible exposure, does their spouse need to quarantine?

This is the same as above: not if the significant other doesn’t have any symptoms. Again, if the exposed person tests positive or develops symptoms of their own, then the employee themself will need to be excluded for close contact.

Best Read:

Once a vaccine becomes available, will your employees take it?  High vaccination rates will be key to ending this pandemic.  But there’s real doubt about who will refuse or delay getting a shot.  It’s an issue we can begin to address now - with education, communication and encouragement (and we may even need  incentives).

Why So Many Americans Are Skeptical of a Coronavirus Vaccine

Best Laugh:

Well it’s not actually a laugh but it’s fascinating and we’re pretty sure you’ll be talking about it over the dinner table or water cooler.

Slow Motion Sneeze (Featuring Dr. Fauci)

And last but not least...

Webinar Reminder!

Register today for our upcoming webinar:

COVID Vaccination: What Employers Need to Know

Next Wednesday, November 4th at 3:00pm EST

Register here!

Feel free to share with anyone on your team that might be interested.

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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.