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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, 11/3

Everyone thinks it's "just a cold"...

Today's Recap:

  • “I thought it was just a cold!” was what we heard over and over and over again this past weekend from people testing positive (who had not quarantined when cold symptoms developed).
  • While Quidel’s rapid test may detect 80% of COVID in symptomatic people, its reliability in asymptomatic people may be as low as 23%.
  • Britain, Austria, Greece, and Australia joined Germany and France with widespread lockdown measures.
  • Meanwhile the forecast in the US, which broke a record of 100k new cases this week, “couldn’t be worse” says Facui (who President Trump said may lose his job if he’s reelected).
  • Many states have issued new guidance in the last several days. From NY allowing people to test out of quarantine to rolling back in MI, NJ, MA, CT and many other states and counties.
  • The MMWR confirmed what many of you already know: COVID spreads quickly through households, including children.
  • And in another good MMWR read, we are reminded why a negative test isn’t the holy grail - it’s just a snapshot in time. You can still develop symptoms after your negative test. In the case of one sick student at an overnight summer camp retreat, it led to 116 confirmed cases among attendees and staff.
  • Why are some people in denial? CNN interviews experts about "pandemic denial."
  • A new AI model may be able to tell if it’s COVID from your cough, reports Forbes.
  • In some good news, there’s one new study that suggests immunity may last longer than we thought - up to 6 months.

Best Questions:

Are specimens collected at home as good as those collected by labs?

According to the CDC, yes.  There is very little difference between who conducts  a nasal swab.  The naso-pharyngeal specimens that were being collected earlier have slightly higher sensitivity but are uncomfortable, more risky for the collector and don’t have appreciably better findings. When someone collects a specimen at home there is some more risk that they mess something up, so it’s important to be sure you’re following instructions carefully when collecting, packaging, and sending off the specimen.

Should we be considering HEPA filters at work or at home?

HEPA filters do reduce airborne pathogens.  They are 99.97% efficient at filtering out naturally occurring viral particles down to 0.3 microns.  It‘s critically important that they are of the highest quality and sized right for the space.  When selecting a unit, you'll need to know how many cubic feet of air are enclosed in the area to be cleaned. Many portable HEPA units list what's called a clean air delivery rate.  Both NIOSH and the CDC have excellent resources on this subject.

Check out the EPA’s guidelines here, or the CDC’s guidance on choosing filtration systems here.

Does plexiglass work between tables or workstations for preventing transmission?

Short answer:  Yes.  The plexiglass needs to be installed at the proper height but does provide an effective droplet barrier.  However, there is still strong evidence that the virus is aerosolized, so it’s still important for employees and guests to wear masks as much as possible, and for you to have the best ventilation and air filtering you can get.

Is loss of taste and smell really an effective way to tell that it’s likely COVID-19?

It is a very, very common symptom of COVID-19.  Though the data differ based on how it’s measured, one study in Spain with over 800 COVID patients found that over half (about 53%) reported loss of taste and smell, and even more interesting, that for about one in five of them, it was the first symptom they experienced. They also found that it’s a more common symptom for younger people and less severe cases where people don’t need to be hospitalized. So, if you have a new loss of taste or smell, you should definitely take it seriously.

There is also a new study out of Egypt that shows that early treatment with corticosteroids may help improve loss of taste and smell.  Although there are some stories of loss of taste and smell lasting 6 months or longer, only 7% have this symptom longer than 60 days.  

An  employee indicated they had new shortness of breath on their daily wellness check and in their chat with the clinical team.  They were excluded for ten days.  Then they told us they’d lied to get out of work.  How do you suggest we handle it?

We told the employee the following: “Please confirm in writing that your survey and first response were not truthful and that you do not and have not had ANY shortness of breath, whatsoever. Then we will connect with your manager and see if they are comfortable with you working given your original statements.”  This may be a violation of your illness policy or other HR policies and may need some input from your team.

This is becoming more common as people start to understand the systems you (and we) have put into place, including what gets an exclusion vs. what doesn’t.

Best Read:

We learned a lot from this article about just how much testing accuracy changes based on symptoms, when the test was collected, and more.

Why the WHO chief isn’t getting a Covid-19 test while he quarantines

Best Laugh:

Join our webinar tomorrow, Nov. 4th!

Join us for a free webinar on a COVID Vaccine.
We'll be discussing everything employers need to know, and answering your questions live.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 4th
3:00pm EST

Register HERE.

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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.