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COVID-19 Briefing - Tuesday, June 23rd

New updates to the exclusion chart, and a TON of new cases across the South

Exclusion Chart Updates:

Before our regularly scheduled programming, we have some changes to our recommended employee exclusion chart to share with you today. 

See the updated COVID-19 Exclusion Chart here.  All substantive changes are highlighted in yellow. 

Here’s why we changed them:

This week’s changes are in part due to the CDC’s new definition of when someone is ready to end self-isolation and return to work (found here), and the increasing evidence that new loss of taste or smell is a unique early indicator of COVID-19. Whereas other symptoms like sore throat, nausea, fatigue, and GI symptoms occur with a number of diseases and may not be cause enough on their own to exclude for 10 days, we believe that a new loss of taste and smell is unique enough that it makes sense to add to our single-symptom exclusions. 

We’ve also clarified a minimum exclusion of 3 days for any single symptom from the CDC symptoms list, which will help operationalize the actual exclusion process for many of you. 

These are tough calls, and the CDC guidance is not clear on how employers should be excluding based on the possible symptoms of COVID. This is our best guidance from our team of doctors, nurses, and public health experts on how to proceed given the rapidly changing situation. This may continue to change as we get more data about how COVID works.

Today’s Recap:

  • Employees testing positive all over the South.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday were insane.  Sunday through today have been a bit better but we’re headed towards Wednesday when scheduled employee counts go up… expecting more of the same.
  • Exposures due to close contact and socializing outside of work are resulting in massive employee exclusions (making staffing difficult or impossible).
  • Employees are increasingly uncomfortable working when there has even been a single positive. We’ve seen a number of instances of employees calling OSHA, posting on social media and even sometimes calling the media. 
  • Media coverage of employee positives is widespread, even in cases where they may just be a single employee positive. 
  • Those of you in the restaurant space have many more locations now closed than a week ago and a large number reverting to curbside and delivery- mostly due to inability to staff.
  • We finally have confirmation from the CDC that a face shield can be worn as a last resort if other face coverings can’t be tolerated.  And interestingly, they shared this article with us  which leads us to believe face shields may be more broadly used after more research confirms their effectiveness. 
  • Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the next two weeks are critical to our control of Coronavirus and the European Union indicated that they intend to bar Americans from traveling to Europe because of uncontrolled COVID.

Best Questions of the Day:

What can we say when employees are anxious about a coworker coming back to work they have recovered from COVID?

When someone has recovered from COVID and meets the criteria for return to work (10 days since onset of symptoms,  plus 3 days fever free without fever-reducing meds, plus other symptoms resolved), they are no longer shedding the virus in any meaningful way. 

97% of people are no longer able to infect others by the 10th day after symptom onset. The additional criteria to ensure that they are 3 days without fever, and that any respiratory symptoms are resolved are meant to ensure that those 3% who might still have symptoms won’t be allowed to return when they could still spread the virus to others. Based on the data that we currently have, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone could spread the virus after meeting the criteria that the CDC have laid out for ending self-isolation and returning to work. 

How do we explain close contact as 15 consecutive minutes (vs the prior 15 cumulative minutes) to managers and employees?

Previously the CDC had not actually commented on whether the amount of time for “prolonged contact” was consecutive or cumulative. To be extremely cautious, we had previously been operating under the assumption that it was cumulative. Since then, the CDC has confirmed for us that they are referring to 15 consecutive minutes (straight, in a row, all at once) when they define prolonged contact. We trust that the CDC recommendation is based on the best possible science available, and will continue to adhere to their guidelines to keep our employees and guests healthy. 

If an employee’s friend was exposed but the friend isn’t sick, does the employee need to be excluded?

No. We are not excluding employees for “secondhand” exclusions at this time. If they didn’t come into contact with a person who is sick or confirmed positive, they may continue to work. If the person that the employee was in direct close contact with develops COVID symptoms or tests positive, then the employee might be excluded at that point. Until then, no action except to reiterate to the employee that it is incredibly important that they let us know if their friend gets sick, monitor themself for symptoms, stay home when sick, wear a mask at work, and wash their hands like nobody's business...

Should we be testing everyone if we have one or two cases in a location?

This question is back by popular demand… Testing everyone is a significant operational and legal issue that needs very careful consideration before it’s done.  If you direct an employee to be tested and they test positive, you may end up with a Workers’ Comp claim. There are times where we do have a need to know how widespread transmission might be.  But those situations are unique and still rare. We recommend that, in most cases, you let individual employees choose to be tested on their own terms. 

How should we handle customers who inquire if we have had any employees test positive?

We recommend you use something along these lines: “As a policy, we do not reveal employee medical information unless the local or state health department has instructed us to do so. We are operating at the highest safety standard including practicing social distancing, making sure no one works sick, ensuring all our employees are wearing proper PPE, and sanitizing every hour.”

Best Read of the Day:

Many of you are asking a lot of questions about COVID testing - to reopen, to manage a situation where many employees have tested positive or been exposed, or to continue to operate. This article from the Atlantic clearly outlines why a negative test isn’t as helpful as we’d all like it to be. 

What a Negative COVID-19 Test Really Means

Best Laugh of the Day:

Before humans started hibernating, this cozy little cave used to be a bakery.”

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