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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Friday, May 8

Today’s Recap:

  • Contact Tracing has started more broadly and there are already issues which threaten to impact reopenings.  Several times since yesterday, employees who tested positive were contacted directly by investigators, informed of their positive COVID results and asked to identify coworkers with whom they had close contact. The investigators quickly directly those coworkers and instructed them to self-quarantine. Among others, one problem is that the names the employees provided didn’t align with work schedules. In one case, the employee named only the coworkers whose names he knew… some of whom didn’t even work on the exposure dates.  And in many cases, coworkers not contacted by the health department were afraid to come to work.

    Here’s our newly drafted Contact Investigation Action Plan.
  • During COVID, our best advice is to close under boil water orders. Regardless of the water district’s guidance, properly sanitizing for COVID is nearly impossible with low water pressure, boil water orders, or other water issues. And summer thunderstorms are coming, which is when we’re most likely to see boil water orders...
  • Closed dining rooms helped social distancing and provided space for packing to go orders. Now with some reopen, we’re hearing about the need for readjustment or even construction to accommodate new needs with dining rooms used for actual dining.
  • Health departments in several states are now declaring 2 or more COVID cases in any restaurant, office or store an “outbreak.”  and reacting accordingly - which sometimes means testing entire teams or conducting full blown outbreak investigations. 

Best Questions of the Day:

An employee showed a lab result to his manager which showed the following: SAR COVID-19 Ab POSITIVE.  Do I need to send him home?

Actually, the “Ab” stands for Antibody. This is a serology, or antibody, test result. All it means is that the person has the antibodies for Coronavirus. And while we hope this means that they’re immune from catching it again, it’s still too early to say that with certainty. So, no need to send them home (unless they’re symptomatic!), but it isn’t a free pass, either. 

How do I handle someone saying they are claustrophobic wearing a mask?

The CDC specifically says that employers should NOT require a doctor’s note if someone says that they have a legitimate medical reason for not wearing a mask. Claustrophobia, anxiety, difficulty breathing, etc. are all examples we’ve heard. We don’t recommend asking for a doctor’s note, but we also don’t want employees to stop wearing masks just because they’re uncomfortable (they are!). We recommend reiterating to staff that masks are essential unless you have a legitimate medical reason not to wear one, and then working out a way to allow that employee to work without a mask. Keep in mind that you are still required to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA.

Some clients might consider face shields as an alternative if that option works for the employee in question. Although they don’t provide the same level of protection, the optics are likely better than an unmasked employee. 

If an employee got tested even though they had no symptoms at all - just because they were nervous and wanted the free test just to see. Their test came back negative. Can they work?

First thing to do here is confirm without a doubt that the employee and their family truly have no symptoms, exposure to someone sick, or another reason to have gotten tested. In many places, testing is still limited and you have to prove symptoms or reasonable exposure, so it’s possible that the employee is forgetting to mention that their husband has a cough, or they have a fever, etc. 

But we are starting to see areas where testing is becoming more widely available, including some without symptom requirements for essential workers and their families, so it’s possible that this is true. Once you’re 100% certain that they had no real reason for testing other than curiosity, then you’re clear to let them work once they get those negative results. 

If you find out that someone got tested and they’re waiting for the result, we suggest keeping them out for the day until they get them back, just in case. 

Best Read:

Restaurants have become the economic lifeblood for many cities. This NYT article talks about how crucial restaurants are as anchors of neighborhoods across the US. 

As Restaurants Remain Shuttered, American Cities Fear the Future

Best Laugh:

Movie theaters aren’t open, but these marquee signs are amazing…

Movie Theater Marquees that Cracked Us Up

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