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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Friday, May 1

Reopening guidelines and travel questions are the name of the game today...

Today’s Recap:

  • In non-COVID news important to us all,  a new study was released on the development of a vaccine for Norovirus.  Annual healthcare cost savings of between $430 million and $740 million could result from the introduction of a Noro vaccine. 900 people die, 109,000 are admitted to hospitals and 2.27 million ER or urgent care visits take place each year in the US due to Noro, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 
  • More new symptoms may be linked with COVID-19, but it’s still too early to exclude workers based on these. Still, if any employees complain of “frostbite toes” or other rashes, consider encouraging them to call their doctor, as they may be signs of mild COVID cases. 
  • Reopening is resulting in new challenges related to supporting openings while minimizing business travel or resuming on a (geographically) limited basis. 
  • The CDC listed new reopening guidance for businesses, found here.  
  • And we have our own Reopening Guidelines to help you get started. We know many of you already have comprehensive reopening plans. This is a starter for our smaller clients, but you might want to look it over to make sure that you’ve hit all these points in your own plan.
  • The concept of work cohorts (like A teams and B teams) is a hot topic in the past two days.  Does it make sense to have work teams who don’t physically interact so that if there is illness on one team, the other can step in?  Certainly makes scheduling and team management more challenging, but this may be the way many businesses return to work. It’s commonplace in other countries right now and may make sense in the short term.
  • State and city health departments have begun aggressively recruiting staff to conduct contact investigations.  Contact investigations for all positives will be key to managing future COVID cases (or a second wave) and help prevent subsequent closures. 

Best Questions of the Day: 

We have seen 10 minutes and 30 minutes for “prolonged contact”. Which is it? 

The CDC doesn’t have a specific definition of “prolonged contact” or “close contact,” unfortunately, because there isn't enough info about Coronavirus yet. Recommendations vary on the length of time of exposure from 10 minutes or more to 30 minutes or more. Brief interactions are less likely to result in transmission; however, symptoms and the type of interaction (e.g., did the person cough directly into the face of the individual) remain important. In a business setting, we’re recommending 30 minutes (with the input of our contacts of the CDC), unless you know that someone coughed directly on another employee, for example, in which case you might exclude even if the contact was short. 

How frequently should we be sanitizing touch points?

We recommend assigning someone to be the cleaner for each shift, and asking them to do it at least every half hour. It takes up a lot of time when done right, but it’s a great use of time during low-volume days. 

Business travel will be resuming as states begin to open.  Are there still travel restrictions and self-quarantines for those people?

Although best practice continues to be a 14 day quarantine for anyone who has traveled by plane, train or cruise ship, that is beginning to change. Many individual states have their requirements  and it is important to  check the latest travel and quarantine restrictions for the destination state.   For example, Texas had quarantine requirements for those traveling from Louisiana which expired, and then they added new quarantine requirements from designated “Hot Spots” - currently defined as NY, IL, CA and LA. 

An employee was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection after being seen by an urgent care center.  How long should we exclude them for?

You should treat any upper respiratory issues as if they are COVID for the time being. Keep the employee out for at least 7 days, including at least 3 fever-free without medication and with symptoms improving. For many folks, that will end up coming out to more than 7 days. Make sure they’ve been feeling better and have no fever for at least 3 days before they come back to work. 

Can I open a location, office or service center when permitted in that state if I can’t get enough masks, hand sanitizer or a working thermometer?

Really good question and a very challenging one which will require consulting your legal counsel and compliance folks. Know your state and local regulations - many of them might preclude you from opening if  you don’t have the capacity to take employee temperatures, for example. However, there are legal nuances between guidance, executive orders, regulations and state law.

It’s also important to think about the cost-benefit analysis. If you open without those supplies and then have a sick employee or guest, will you be able to remain open? Then there’s also employee anxiety in play - many of our employees are very nervous to come back to work, and making sure they feel comfortable is an important part of your reopening plan. You don’t want something going around on social media about how under-prepared your business is. 

Best Read of the Day:

A new term, social bubbles,  was introduced this week in Belgium which could modify social distancing for many. Here's how it works…

Want to Join My Bubble? This is what your future social life could look like

Best Laugh of the Day:

The CDC should actually just have M*A*S*H do all it’s PSAs from here on out…

M*A*S*H & C*O*V*I*D

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