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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Friday, 4/17

Diarrhea as a possible early sign of COVID, hot spots in Long Island and New Jersey, and co-infection with other illnesses - ouch!

Today’s Recap:

  • Diarrhea as an earliest sign of COVID? A new study from China shows a very high percentage (23%) of those experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms have diarrhea as their primary or only symptom (and an even higher percentage (55.8%) of those are women).  The food service industry, where there is continuous monitoring for foodborne illness, may be better prepared to detect COVID going forward.
  • Reports that undocumented workers are not seeking testing or treatment for COVID-19 are worrying. Fearing deportation, many aren’t seeking medical services they need. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has stated that the Public Charge, which normally tightly limits noncitizens’ use of government programs, will not be enforced around COVID testing or treatment. Read more here, and see the USCIS statement encouraging COVID treatment here.
  • “This isn’t the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning” - Dr. Osterholm from Univ. of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy. Many people haven’t been infected yet, and we’ll see many more cases. Might be a big wave, or a constant flow. Antibody testing is still not specific or accurate enough to make major policy and return-to-work changes based on them. See Dr. Osterholm’s full interview here.

  • Long Island remained the hot spot for employees testing positive across our client base.  Several of you made the decision to close a location or facility on Long Island (and in New Jersey) where multiple employees’ tested positive.

  • Despite stay-at-home orders across most of the nation, a few employees continue to travel.  From reduced fares to visiting family for the holidays, employees were excluded over the past 72 hours for non-critical travel.  Occasionally this included travel by car (for hours) with others with whom they don’t live.

  • Today, we had multiple instances where people were sick with pneumonia, flu, Noro AND COVID-19.  And tonight, University of MN confirmed we’re just seeing a nationwide trend where patients have other illnesses and COVID..  Researchers report 21% COVID-19 co-infection rate.

Your Best Questions of the Day:

A clinic where an employee tested positive indicated the employee needed to return in 7 days for retesting.  Is this a requirement? And is one negative adequate?

We’re still struggling with different states and jurisdictions having different and changing requirements and/or “suggestions.” When this is coupled with variability in testing availability and turnaround time, it makes return-to-work testing doubly challenging.  Florida was the first to suggest two negative tests were needed prior to returning to work (or 7 days plus three fever free without fever reducing medication).  At this time, we are not aware of any jurisdiction requiring negative testing for those who have not been hospitalized.  Many hospitals are obtaining one or two negative tests prior to discharge.  And the reason for two is that they are occasionally seeing someone test negative, then positive (and eventually negative again).

An employee just told me they got an instant COVID-19 result. Is that real?

Yes!  Several clinics on Long Island in particular are providing rapid results.  We don’t yet have information on their accuracy (or lack thereof compared to lab results which we know may have a 30% false positive rate).  But beginning yesterday, many of our clients are getting COVID positive documentation (which is great compared to the self-reporting we were getting a lot of previously) from rapid tests done at urgent cares and some drive-thru testing sites.  This is a huge step forward. 

Can we use our food-grade IR thermometers to take employees’ temperatures?

Short answer: you shouldn’t. Food grade thermometers aren’t FDA approved for medical use. It’s also true that your forehead temperature is generally a few degrees lower than your core body temp ( 98.6°F on average). Medical thermometers are calibrated to that and tack on a few degrees for forehead readings.  

If you have to use food-grade IR thermometers because it’s required in your jurisdiction and you don’t have access to medical thermometers, be aware that 91°F-94°F is a normal range, take every reading with a grain of salt -- and remember to turn off the laser. They’re only for aim and we don’t want to blind anyone. Read more here.

How often and how should cloth masks be laundered?

Ideally, someone wearing a cloth mask has two and wears one for a single day and then lauders it and wears the other.  Following basic laundering instructions using the highest water temperature permitted for the fabric and detergent.  

Do mask requirements like in NY and CT include back-of-house or employees who don’t interact with the public?

Although each state with masking executive orders differs, their intent is for anyone who comes within six feet of someone else in a public space (not at home) to be masked.  That includes any employees who come within 6 feet of each other, too, including back of house, service center employees, etc. 

Best Read of the Day: 

How does herd immunity work, and is it a useful way to keep infection rates down? Understanding the concept of herd immunity is important to understanding when and how this will end successfully.

Herd immunity: Can it save us from coronavirus?

Best Visual of the Day

We found ourselves referring back to this social distancing visual that the New York Times published several times in the last twenty four hours.  It’s worth taking a look and sharing so everyone understands why 6 feet… (or even further if you read some of today’s other news)

This 3-D Simulation Shows Why Social Distancing Is So Important

Again today our conversations were focused on what comes next and how we emerge from sheltering.  And again that is encouraging.

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