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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 11/17

Vaccine news and surging case counts

Today's Recap:

  • Good news on the vaccine front again this week - Moderna’s vaccine has a preliminary efficacy rate of 95% and doesn’t require the same super cold temperatures as the other frontrunner vaccines, and can be stored in a standard fridge for up to a month.
  • As we mentioned last week, we’re still cautious about vaccine excitement as these are press releases, not full data, and we still don’t know how long these vaccines provide protection. There are still a lot of variables, but this is certainly still a bright spot.
  • It will take weeks for the FDA to fully review vaccine studies, according to their Director of Biological Products.
  • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced that he will participate in a vaccine trial to help build public trust.
  • Experts are worried about a huge Thanksgiving surge as people travel and/or combine households next week for the holiday.
  • More statewide mask mandates as COVID cases reach unprecedented numbers across the US, recently in North Dakota, Utah, Iowa and West Virginia. This useful tracker from the NYT covers restrictions and mask mandates by state.  
  • CA Governor Newsom said Monday that he is “pulling the emergency brake” and putting nearly all of CA in the most restrictive tier of opening.
  • Philadelphia banned most indoor gatherings for the rest of the year.
  • In El Paso, TX, inmates from local prisons are being brought in to work at morgues at $2 per hour.
  • And a reminder that folks need to quarantine every time they are exposed to a COVID+ person unless they’re in the 90-day window after they tested COVID+ themselves: Boris Johnson is back in isolation after exposure. He was hospitalized back in April.
  • The incoming Biden administration has said that a full nationwide shutdown would be a “last resort.”
  • Kids may be infectious for fewer days and clear the virus faster, according to a new report. And they may have antibodies from other coronaviruses that help them fight off SARS-CoV-2.
  • Nevertheless, the US hit the mark of 1 million children diagnosed with COVID with over 6,000 hospitalizations and 133 deaths.

Best Questions:

A young child was diagnosed with COVID, and both parents are employees. Is there any way we can coach them to reduce the overall exclusion they’ll need?

Yes. We hit 1 million kids diagnosed with COVID and this is likely to become more common as testing numbers increase. In a case like this, it’s generally likely that one parent will need to be the caregiver, and so is likely out for a  24-day exclusion starting from the onset of the child’s symptoms (or their positive test date if that’s not clear or they have no symptoms). Generally, it’s best, when possible, to assign one parent to self-isolate away from the child and the caregiver parent, so that they can be excluded for 14 days from their most recent exposure, rather than the full 24 days. There’s no getting around that both will be out for 14 days, but one will need to stay out longer since they will have continuous exposure at home during the 10 days the child is infectious when sick. If that doesn’t work and there’s no way to arrange one person isolating and the other caregiving, both parents will likely need to stay out for the full 24 days (10 days while the child is infectious, plus 14 days quarantine for exposure).

An employee was excluded for COVID-like symptoms. On the day they were set to return, another family member tested positive. The employee’s test was “inconclusive.” Do we have to exclude them again for exposure?

Unfortunately, yes. If an employee doesn’t receive a lab-reported COVID positive test, we can’t know for sure that they had COVID during the time they were sick, even if it seems very likely. We don’t recommend letting anyone work after exposure except when they are in the 90 days after a lab-confirmed COVID positive test. Any and all other situations need to be treated as though it was a new COVID exposure.

If someone was diagnosed with pneumonia and has a cough and difficulty breathing, would she still have a 10 day exclusion for COVID symptoms?

Yes. Pneumonia, bronchitis, strep, and sinusitis are common diagnoses that don’t necessarily mean that someone doesn’t have COVID. For pneumonia in particular, it’s commonly diagnosed along with COVID. Even with a diagnosis of one of those four illnesses, we generally don’t recommend letting an employee return any earlier than 10 days after their symptoms started. And their respiratory and GI symptoms must be fully resolved before they return.

What can we say to employees heading into Thanksgiving week to remind them to stay vigilant?

This is a great question, and one that we hope your leadership team and managers take to heart. You can point to the alarming stats about COVID’s explosive outbreak, but we also know that messages about their social responsibility and that “everyone is doing it” tend to hit home. Remind them that everyone on your team and across the US is making sacrifices for their holiday season to keep others safe, and millions of people are skipping or reducing the size of their holiday get-togethers. We make smart choices to reduce our risk to keep our teammates and their families safe, and vice versa.

Best Read:

This is a grim read, but an important one.

COVID-19's Third Surge Is Breaking Health-Care Workers

Best Laugh:

Here’s to getting creative for a safe holiday next week...

r/funny - Outside the box

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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.