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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Thursday, 5/28

It's the Wild Wild West out there...

Today’s Recap:

  • Welcome to the wild, wild west” is how one client described dealing with so many different, new, changing and conflicting sets of regulations and guidance from state, county and local jurisdictions.  Tracking them in the last 24 hours is nearly impossible.  A major international organization told us earlier today that they have a huge team of lawyers who just can’t keep up.  We know! 

  • There are issues with whether to glove FOH or not to glove  (considered best practice in most jurisdictions - but not permitted specifically in parts of FL and TX).  At least nine health departments are prohibiting gloved servers while the data tells us that most guests prefer to see everyone gloved to feel safe to dine. 

  • In Conway, AR, the health department threatened to shut a restaurant down if they got any further complaints about guests not complying with mandatory mask requirements. Guests are using their cell phones to call health departments while dining or shopping.  Kissimmee, FL has had similar challenges.

  • Many of you are asking us about testing employees. “Employers considering COVID testing for returning employees need to be mindful of the potential risks associated with such testing”, according to leading labor attorneys at Epstein, Becker and Green.  Class actions suits may start flying soon. “Testing could be a tool for enhancing workplace safety and reassuring a nervous workforce, its potential to generate class and representative litigation should not be ignored.” 

Reminder:  There are other illnesses still circulating.  This week, you’ve had two Hepatitis A cases and one infectious TB.  Interesting note about the Hep A:  the health department did not require vaccinating all co-workers and did not go public because the employee worked gloved. This is a health department that traditionally went public in the past. 

Best Questions of the Day: 

Your questions today made us laugh more than other days.  From a saga about how buying fresh crabs at $6 a pound lead to a COVID exposure, to how many employees shared bongs over the last few days (a lot!)

If 20 employees attended an indoor party (in a small apartment) and one tested positive, do they all need to be excluded for 14 days.

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  We’ve had some outdoor parties and other events where everyone didn’t need to be excluded.  We have even had versions where they attended a party and shared a bong or a hookah. But for this indoor party, the exclusion is clear.  They were definitely within 6 feet for 30+ minutes. It’s also clear for sharing a bong or a hookah, where they are absolutely at risk for spread of COVID droplets.

And back by popular demand (as in, this is the single most asked question nearly every day...):  If an exposed employee tests negative, can they return to work earlier than 14 days? And if not, why not?

A COVID-19 test is just a snapshot in time.  On that day, at that moment, the employee tested negative.  However, the incubation period is 2 to 14 days, averaging 5.2 or 5.3 days.  Someone who was exposed might be incubating the virus and doesn’t yet have it at detectable levels at the time of that initial test.  

Here’s a good example:  an employee had a low grade fever for nearly a week and had few other symptoms, was tested on day 7 and received negative results on day 8.  The very next day she experienced a loss of taste and smell (that lasted five days).  Little doubt she had COVID even though that first test was negative.  In fact, her doctor didn’t recommend a second test and had strongly advised her to maintain self-quarantine after the first negative test.  She’s glad she followed his advice.

An employee says they must have had a false positive test because their retest five days later was negative and then another one after that.  Was it really a false positive?

Good question, and probably not.  The issue here is that everyone will eventually test negative after testing positive… but obviously this employee didn’t want to believe that.  This remains a ten day minimum exclusions (including three days fever free without fever reducing medication).

Best Read of the Day:  

Many of you are asking lots of questions about travel.  This NYT article frames the issues well. 

Thinking About Flying? Here’s What You Need to Know Now

Best Laugh of the Day:  

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