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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Tuesday, 4/14

OSHA guidance, thermometers, antibody testing, and more.

Today’s Recap:

  • Employer-led COVID testing is becoming the story of the week as leaders and news media imagine what reopening might look like. This WSJ op-ed discusses what that might look like.  Business Week is writing a similar story and focused on the restaurant industry.

  • Antibody testing won’t replace COVID-19 swab testing. You don’t develop antibodies until the second week of illness, so both will be key in managing sick employees and any antibody testing for return to work in the future. There’s still a lot to learn about how immunity works for COVID-19, so that’s all still a long way off, but the CDC predicts that we may need proof of immunity in the future, similar to the way public school children show their vaccination records. 

  • Asymptomatic people are definitely spreading the virus. Some data from Iceland says that up to 50% of those infected didn’t show any symptoms. Other data show that number to be much lower.

  • Many of you are beginning to receive the IR thermometers you’ve ordered.  There is still a lot of confusion surrounding their use.  On today’s call, Dr. Butler described the process he went through this morning to enter the CDC.  A healthcare professional wearing a face shield and mask took his temperature and gave him a sticker to wear showing he’d been screened today.  We anticipate employees will be self-temping and showing the thermometer to a manager.  Does this happen inside or outside?  Does the manager need PPE?  What’s the cutoff temp?  We’re working closely with the CDC to get additional guidance. He did explain that its usefulness extends to identifying illness in general vs just COVID (where many patients don’t have a fever).

  • OSHA released new guidelines for COVID-19 recording that won’t enforce the regulation requiring employers to record if COVID-19 infection happened in the workplace, unless there is objective evidence available to the employer that it occurred in the workplace. Only healthcare, emergency response, and corrections industries will have the standard recording requirements enforced. 

Best Questions of the Day:

If an employee tests positive for the flu, can I exclude them for less time?

Unfortunately, no. You can have the flu and COVID-19. And because there seems to be a relatively high rate of false negatives for COVID, we’ll go ahead and recommend that they stay out at least 7 days regardless, plus 3 fever-free and with other symptoms improving. 

What do we do about washing masks?

Cloth masks should be washed between each shift on the highest temperature water and dried on the hottest setting.

Medical or disposable masks are not designed to be washed. They should be discarded when they’re wet, falling apart, or you’re no longer able to breathe through them. If an employee has two, we recommend switching them out to extend the lifespan of both.  

We’re awaiting additional guidance from the CDC on this issue.

If an employee has been excluded from work due to an exposure (but is not sick themselves), do we need to exclude other people they live with?

There are no recommendations for excluding contacts of contacts at this time.  There may be an occasional very high risk situation, but that would be the exception rather than the rule.  The exposed employee is being excluded out of an abundance of caution and it would be extremely conservative to go further than that.

An employee’s family member had symptoms, but then tested negative for COVID. Can my employee return to work?

Unfortunately, not for 14 days after their last exposure to the symptomatic family member. Because of the high rates of false-negatives, we can’t trust that a negative result truly means the family member doesn’t have COVID-19. So we have to act as though they do, and exclude that employee for the 14 days in case they become infected.  

If an employee works in a high-risk second job (nurse, undertaker, nursing home, etc.), should we exclude them?

Not at this time. We are only excluding employees who work other jobs that put them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 if they develop symptoms. 

Best Read of the Day:

The discussion about what it will take to re-open cities is all the rage this week. This article does a good job offering different perspectives, and why it will require a lot of tough decisions:

The Path Out of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Best Laugh of the Day:

New York is keeping it’s attitude amid the outbreak...we too miss the days when bedbugs were the biggest fear… 

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