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COVID-19 Daily Briefing - Tuesday, 4/28

Today’s Recap:

  • The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent population health research center at UW Medicine, released this interactive dashboard with projected safe reopening dates for each state
  • Beware snakeoil salesmen promising clear/easy paths forward with antibody testing. We’re hearing that many folks are being approached, but it’s still very early to invest in antibody testing, since of the available tests on the market, most have a false positive rate of anywhere from 16 to 5 percent. This means someone might be told they’re immune to the virus when in fact they are not. Read more about why we can’t really trust antibody test results here.
  • Per CDC guidance, we are continuing to recommend screening for the main three symptoms of COVID - cough, fever, shortness of breath. We are not, at this time, adding other symptoms like loss of taste/smell, diarrhea, etc. to our screening criteria or exclusion chart. Loss of taste or smell is one we’re getting a lot of questions about, and Dr. Jay Butler, Deputy Director of Infectious Disease at the CDC, said today that it’s only a major symptom in roughly less than 10% of cases 
  • The NYC DOH  (and others quickly following) is beginning to accept self-collected COVID testing for saliva and nasal samples.  This is huge as it reduces the considerable risk to healthcare workers that collecting a nasal swab entails and the wait time for specimen collection and testing is much shorter.

  • Tyson Foods’ John Tyson took out full page ads in several major papers warning there may be major meat shortages due to the virus. We continue to see daily reports of plant closings.

  • Today the CDC provided an early glimpse into business travel and what it might look like.  They introduced the concept of limiting travel from high incidence regions to low incidence regions and that local travel only may be part of phase 1.

  • The world’s COVID-19 total topped 3 million cases, the US closed in on 1 million cases, and hotspots were identified in some new areas including the Delmarva Peninsula on the eastern shores of Maryland and Delaware.  In good news, the CDC reports that the number of new cases in the US  is not continuing to increase at the same rate it was previously – although increasing.
  • Restaurants and other businesses reopened today in TN on the same day the state reported its highest single day jump in cases.  

Best Questions of the Day:

There’s a rumor going around that one of my employees’ family members tested positive. The employee hasn’t told me anything. Can I ask them directly? Can I keep them out regardless?

You can directly ask the employee if anyone in their household has symptoms or was tested. It’s important to make sure that employees aren’t working if someone else in their house is sick. That said, there are a lot of rumors flying around, and it’s best to directly contact your employee and ask them by phone if they’ve had contact with anyone showing symptoms. 

If an employee was exposed and tested and tested negative, can they return to work?

Unfortunately, this is a gray area. It can take up to 14 days for an exposed person to begin showing symptoms. We don’t know how long it takes from exposure until someone tests positive in a COVID nasal swab test. And there’s up to a 30% false negative rate with current testing. To be safe, we recommend keeping them out for the full 14 days from their exposure. 

When a manager is diagnosed, that often means that many employees might have been in close contact following the CDC’s Risk Assessment guidelines.  Does everyone need to be excluded?

Anyone who has been within 6 feet of the manager for 30 mins or more should be excluded. This is a relatively common issue, and it’s amazing how many employees may end up being excluded when a manager gets sick. We recommend sitting down and training your managers in social distancing, limiting the number of employees they’re exposed to (if possible, have them managing the same group of 20 employees rather than a large number of shifts that involves contact with dozens of people). 

Will an air purifier help prevent COVID if I put one in the workplace?

Not really. While a HEPA air filter can filter droplets that are as small as the Coronavirus out of the air, the real threat with Coronavirus is person-to-person contact and physical droplets that are spread through coughing and sneezing. Those droplets only travel about 6 feet and land on surfaces, they aren’t really “airborne” enough for a HEPA filter to snatch them up and filter them out of the air. 

Best Read of the Day:  

The initial coronavirus outbreaks on the East and West Coasts emerged at roughly the same time. But the danger was communicated very differently.

Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead, New York’s Did Not

Best Laugh of the Day:

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