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COVID Briefing - Tuesday, 1/5

Vaccine rollout challenges continue, updates on the new variant, and more.

Today's Recap:

  • We’re seeing more and more people returning to “normal” activities despite booming case counts, including travel and parties. Several of you had employees test positive one day after returning from Disney World this week.
  • Meanwhile, airlines reported their busiest day since March.  That doesn’t bode well for the coming weeks.
  • In really good news, we’re seeing that the vaccine does work to prevent hospitalizations and more severe illness.  
  • Vaccine rollout is going way slower than we’d hoped around the world.  
  • But scientists are studying if the Moderna dosage can be cut in half to double their supply. Fingers crossed!
  • NY and FL are threatening to punish hospitals that don’t distribute vaccine quickly enough - NY through fines, and FL through re-distributing those doses to other, more efficient hospitals.
  • A study published last week shows that the new, shorter quarantine period that the CDC adopted last month works for household contacts for most cases if they don’t develop symptoms or test positive in that first week.  The study also shows that a whopping 59% of close contacts did develop COVID (and 76% of them within the first 7 days).
  • The CT Supreme Court upheld emergency business closures this week.  Similar legal battles over the right to close businesses are playing out across the country.
  • Long term loss of taste and smell haunts some COVID patients and, interestingly, can lead to serious mental health issues.
  • The long flu sufferers of the 1918-1919 pandemic tell us that we may see reduced productivity from COVID long-haulers for months.
  • Hot city apartments may actually be that way for good reason! They were built to stay warm with windows open for ventilation, another lesson also learned in the 1918 Pandemic.  Open those windows!
  • CalOSHA continues to challenge employers across the state.  Here’s a link to an excellent webinar from Fisher Phillips and the California Restaurant Association that helps clarify some of it. Non-members can sign in as a guest to view this training.

Best Questions:

Recently, we think we’re seeing some possible workplace transmission.  Are others seeing that too?  Can we tell if it’s really workplace transmission?

Many employers are now seeing clusters of positives, with some onset dates five to seven days after employee close contact and exclusion.  We have no way of knowing whether or not they were infected at work or elsewhere.  Many employees have contact with the same sick co-worker at work and outside of work.  Some employees are filing claims, stating they had workplace transmission. This will continue to get more complicated as COVID continues to spread.

Is it true that you need the same brand of vaccine for doses 1 and 2?  What happens if it’s not available when someone needs dose 2?

Yes, that is technically correct.  However, some states are now advising to  take whatever second dose you can get, although the FDA has clarified that you should not mix and match doses. And there is some discussion about holding off on Dose 2 until more people get Dose 1 (again, the FDA is advising against that).  The clinical trials on these vaccines were all conducted following the two dose format - properly spaced apart by 3-4 weeks depending on which vaccine.  We have seen several instances where the same brand was not available at the appointed Dose 2 date and the providers rescheduled for a later date when that vaccine was available, or referred the person to another vaccination site that had appointments and the proper vaccine available.

Several of my employees have received Dose 1 in one location but they have moved or are travelling, and are having difficulty scheduling Dose 2 at their new location.  Have you heard about this?

Yes.  There is not currently a system in place for easily accommodating multi-state vaccination.  We anticipate that this snafu will be addressed soon.  In the interim, the employee will need to communicate directly with the health department in their new state, delay dose 2 or go back to the state where they received the first dose.  This is yet another COVID vaccination complexity.

We have an employee who produced a positive COVID test result that looks altered.  How should we handle that?

Our clinical team has now seen several fake or altered positive COVID results. Some people are inserting their own name in place of someone else’s, or changing the test date to an earlier date so they can try to come back to work sooner.  We review and keep a copy of results for our electronic wellness check clients.  When we suspect a result has been altered, a clinical team member calls the clinic or lab and explains the situation. Most of the time they will verify a result for us, or confirm that a result is in their format or never altered with white out.  While they can’t always share results with us, we can usually send them their own result back and ask them to validate it is theirs and not altered.  Most employers will terminate employment if this happens, but that’s an HR or Legal question.

Best Read:  

It’s all over the news, but this Atlantic article does a good job of explaining why the new virus variant is so dangerous even if it doesn’t lead to more severe illness and even if the vaccine still works against it. Being more transmissible could lead to exponential growth in cases.

The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb

Best Laugh:

But even with all that said and the current vaccine mayhem, we still have high hopes for vaccinations getting us closer to normal this year. Cheers to a better 2021!

And a reminder... don't miss our next webinar TOMORROW @ 3pm!


Employer Vaccination & Testing in 2021

Led by Roslyn Stone, MPH, CEO Zero Hour Health and Zedic

When:  Wednesday January 6th, 2021
Time:   3:00PM Eastern

As we've all seen, the vaccine is coming, but what do you need to know as a business owner?

We're going to discuss everything including the differences in the vaccine brands, side effects, the status of the roll-out, when you might expect to get vaccinated, when your workforce will, tracking of all of this information, and much, much more.

We'll leave plenty of time for Q&A, so bring us your best questions!

Feel free to share with anyone on your team that might be interested!

Click here to register!

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.