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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Thursday, 4/23

Your Thursday recap - OSHA will "use discretion", GA businesses set to reopen as early as Friday, and other reopening plans start to come together.

Today’s Recap:

  • The CDC updated their General Business FAQs which you can find here. They also expanded common symptoms to include chills, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, repeated shaking with chills, and loss of taste/smell. Based on our contacts at the CDC and in the industry, our recommendation at this point in time is to stick to the core 3 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) for wellness checks to keep it manageable. 
  • Some GA businesses are reopening as early as Friday, with restaurant dining rooms slated for Monday. These will be open under  Minimum Basic Operations, which “includes, but is not limited to, screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhancing workplace sanitation, wearing masks and gloves if appropriate, separating workspaces by 6 feet, teleworking if possible, and implementing staggered shifts.” See the full list of guidelines here.   Many reported taking a wait and see approach and are not planning on Monday openings.
  • Sounds like reservations will be a major topic for discussion and focus going forward for restaurants and other timed retail services. Guests waiting for tables will not be able to stand around hostess stands waiting for tables and will likely need to wait outside (and not in bars).
  • Local jurisdictions continue to roll out draft reopening plans that are seriously restrictive.  A draft from Nantucket contains operating instructions that likely make it impossible to operate profitably.
  • The American Public Health Association shared extensive information today on the state of COVID testing.  Testing supply issues persist.  They used an excellent analogy of baking chocolate chip cookies:  First you find you’re missing flour so you substitute with a different flour.  Then you find you’re missing butter...and chocolate chips...and then your oven doesn’t work.  That’s what they are experiencing with COVID testing with a shortage of swabs, and then reagents, lab testing capacity and finally the specimens don’t arrive at the lab. 

Best Questions of the Day:

Should we be asking employees about loss of smell and taste on our wellness checks?

The CDC did add those symptoms to their symptom list this week, but we have no guidance directing us to ask specific questions about those symptoms on daily wellness checks.  Loss of smell and taste are also symptoms of the common cold, and can often develop late in the illness. The CDC Business FAQs, updated on April 20th, suggest that employers screen for the major three symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath). At this point in time, we recommend sticking to those to keep it manageable. 

We have employees who are nervous about reopening and interacting more with the public.  How do we reassure them we have procedures in place to keep everyone safe?

This is a tough question, because in some places it may be too early to safely open.  Most of you have good employee health procedures in place while you’re doing only curbside and delivery and refining and expanding as you go. The employees who are working now are familiar with them.  But being sure you outline them clearly, both to those currently working and those returning will be key.  Use of PPE, wellness checks, temperature checks and spreading out employees where you can are some of them.  It’s all about communication, addressing and respecting fears, and providing good information.  And following our new SOPS carefully. There’s no room for error.

Is there a specific number of cases at which we should close a location?

There is no magic number.  One client has had several cases, but one at a time over several weeks, and they have added up. However, there doesn’t appear to be a pattern of the employees working together and they’ve focused on not working sick, handwashing, employee screening and sanitizing.  Another client has had three cases in the last 24 hours all of whom worked with a single person who tested positive a week ago.  For the first client, remaining open seems reasonable, while the second client might consider closing - minimally for 24 hours to deep clean and take a closer look, but potentially for 7 days or longer to break the cycle of illness. 

Should we be excluding employees who also work in healthcare  (HCW) caring for COVID patients?

We asked the CDC for additional guidance on this day’s ago and received a response today - which doesn't necessarily give us a clear direction.  We’re concerned about the high rate of positives among health care workers.  The guidance said if a HCW had known exposure without PPE, they should be excluded for 14 days.  If a HCW tests positive, they should be excluded.  But if a HCW is wearing PPE in the health care job and screened and masked in our jobs, they did not specifically recommend exclusion.  When we asked the question, everyone wasn’t masked like they are now. 

Best Read of the Day:

Scientists can trace the genetic code of the virus to see that it’s actually spread a lot farther and faster than we would have expected. This is interesting when we pair with the reports that general population antibody testing in LA and Santa Clara counties in California have much higher rates of antibodies than we thought - this thing moves fast!

Solving the Mysteries of Coronavirus With Genetic Fingerprints

Best Laugh of the Day: 

Okay, not exactly a laugh, but  the NY Times takes a look why we’re looking for humor now and what COVID humor is acceptable...

It’s OK to Find Humor in Some of This 

And because it’s hump day, here’s our current favorite coronavirus meme to get you through the back half of the week: Corona Lisa

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