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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Friday 3.27.20

CDC confirm that food and food packaging are not a source of transmission, asymptomatic employees test positive, HIPAA compliance, and more...

Today’s recap:

  • From today’s CDC industry update:  “There is no evidence that food or food packaging is a transmission source.  Unlike Hep A or Noro, this is a respiratory virus and GI exposure is not thought to be a source of the illness.” Surface exposure to the virus is not thought to be a main or significant source of illness.
  • Individual states are beginning to restrict travel from other areas within the US. Florida is asking anyone who’s been in New York in the past 3 weeks to quarantine, or face arrest. Alaska is requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone at all coming from out of state. Hawaii has asked tourists to postpone travel for a month. 
  • More than 80,000 Americans have now tested positive. 
  • The CDC provided additional guidance on returning employees to work after a COVID diagnosis.  The return to work is divided into two categories - based on whether or not testing is done on recovery. If they have not been tested, then the employee must be fever free for three days without medication, have improving other symptoms (like cough) and a minimum of seven days from onset of illness.  If they have been tested, the employee must be fever free for three days without medication, have improving other symptoms (like cough) and have two negative lab results at least 24 hours apart. (This is similar to what FL has required). Most states are not doing the follow up testing due to short supply.


Best questions of the day:

Should we ask every employee if they’re being tested?

This question came up because so many of you have had employees come to you to report positives whom you didn’t even know were being tested.  Many (most) were asymptomatic but somehow were able to be tested (we learned more about that too).  Most of you agreed that asking every employee reporting for work if they’ve been tested may be a challenging and frustrating exercise.


How are so many asymptomatic people getting tested?

We’ll begin by saying South Korea got a handle on this much more quickly than others because they tested so many people whether or not they had symptoms. But we have smart employees who are getting coached on what to say at the testing sites; sometimes by the police or National Guard at the front entrance.  By saying they had a fever or family member who is positive, they’re getting tested.  And some are testing positive… who are either still asymptomatic or did develop symptoms between testing and results.


What’s the risk from our third party  delivery services? Are there ways to mitigate risks? 

This disease is primarily transmitted from person to person to food prep, food handling and food delivery are not considered significant risks.  Although there is evidence that it can survive on some surfaces, that is not how most people will get it.  Transmission from handling a bag, especially one with handles, is not  considered a source of illness.  Nearly every third party delivery platform has added contactless delivery and touch free payment.  We’re hearing that guests like when delivery people are gloved - even if it isn’t absolutely necessary. 

We do recommend procedures that deter delivery persons from gathering inside or outside your locations - to protect your staff and the delivery persons. Ideas include: Limiting the number allowed in at one time, keeping people six feet apart, developing a system for their knowing when an order is ready for pick up, adding pick up shelves outside or through a window, or giving gloves and wipes to the delivery people  


And the most asked question of the day:  

How do we  meet the CDC recommendation to inform employees they may have been exposed while also complying with HIPAA and protecting the identity of the employee who tested positive?

It is important that every manager understands the responsibility to comply with HIPAA and protect the medical privacy of employees who have tested positive, been exposed, live with something with COVID or being tested.  Since yesterday, as more employees have tested positive, we’ve repeatedly heard that managers are sharing the name of  employees who tested positive.  We’ve worked with some of you to add careful wording to disclosure talking points  about HIPAA and medical privacy.


Best (& most hopeful!) read of the day: 

Mount Sinai hospital in NY has begun transferring antibodies into critically ill patients. Doctors are hopeful that they’ll help sick patients fight the virus. 


And today’s famous birthday to sing to as you wash your hands:  Diana Ross.  It’s kind of ironic that one of the songs that made her famous was Reach out and Touch (somebody’s hand) at the time where touching someone’s hand is ... well, you know.

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