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Daily COVID-19 Briefing - Wednesday, May 6th

See our updated exclusion chart & other key updates from the CDC

Today’s Recap:

  • We’ve updated our exclusion chart to reflect two major changes, reducing the criteria for fever to 100°F, and increasing exclusions for positive or presumed COVID to 10 days.
  • We have not yet updated the definition of exposure for a “prolonged period of time” because the CDC says that the data are insufficient to define the duration, and recommendations vary from 10 to 30 minutes. Because that range is wide, and is also intended for healthcare worked, and because likelihood of transmission varies based on the symptoms and type of interaction (e.g. did the person cough directly into the face of the individual), we are sticking to the 30 minute recommendation for now. We may update as we get additional guidance from our friends at the CDC.
  • As meatpacking plants across the country close due to COVID, the impact is starting to be felt in restaurant supply chains in earnest this week.  And Costco is limiting beef, pork and chicken purchases to three per customer.
  • NY Gov. Cuomo says daily employee health screenings will be required for any business to open in NY.
  • Many of you are starting to think about what reopening your office may look like. See our office reopening guidance here.  If you are in leased office space, it may involve conversations with your landlord which should start now.  We gave a very specific list to ours (mostly related to shared spaces like bathrooms, mailrooms and cafeterias). 
  • France has confirmed their first case of COVID was detected on December 27th, four days before the cluster was identified in Wuhan. This is a full month before the first cases were reported in France in two travelers returning from Wuhan.
  • Finally, the topic of the day has been resuming business travel.  We are NOT in favor of any non-essential travel at this point.  Here’s why:  
  1. The risk of cross infection (between locations/stores) remains high
  2. Closing stores that just reopened will be devastating financially but even more so emotionally
  3. Exposure is certainly longer than ten minutes on any flight, so if it turns out that someone nearby on board is sick, you’re very likely exposed. You don’t want that call from the health department’s contact tracing investigator!

Best Questions of the Day: 

An employee says they‘re asymptomatic but got tested anyway.  Now, they’ve tested positive.  Do they need to be excluded and do any co-workers?

The employee needs to be excluded for 10 days from the date of the test.  However, it is important to ask some questions.  When talking with the employee, we’ve inadvertently discovered many of these employees may actually have been symptomatic (which is how they qualified to be tested in the first place).  Regardless, coworkers should be excluded if they live with, cared for, or were in close contact for 30+ minutes. 

Why was the exclusion expanded to ten days from seven?

Recent studies showed that transmission is most likely to occur in the two days prior to showing symptoms and the ten days after symptoms appear. By day 7, there’s still a possibility that someone is shedding enough virus to make someone else sick. By the end of day 10, there’s basically no chance that the virus can replicate itself (aka make other people sick). So by extending by 3 days, we reduce the likelihood of transmission almost to nothing, which is great news. 

Should we be asking employees about loss of taste and smell in our basic wellness check?

Not at this time.  We are continuing to recommend screening for the main three symptoms of COVID - cough, fever, shortness of breath. We are not yet adding other symptoms like loss of taste/smell, chills, headache, sore throat, muscle ache, etc. to our screening criteria, though they have been added to the exclusion chart. That’s because they are the primary symptoms only in a relatively low percentage of cases, and we want to make sure the wellness checks are easy to complete and cover the most likely options. The CDC still recommends that employers screen for the big three - cough, fever, shortness of breath. These still catch the vast majority of cases. 

If an employee discusses other symptoms that aren’t on your daily wellness checks, and they match anything on the exclusion chart, definitely ask about any other symptoms before allowing them to continue to work. 

Can an employee return to work while they still have a loss of taste and smell or a cough?

The newest research shows that a patient is generally no longer infectious ten days after onset of symptoms (or testing positive).  Although the virus may still be present, it is at levels low enough to not infect others.  Both loss of taste and smell and the COVID cough are lingering for some people.  The larger issue is that co-workers, understandably, are hesitant to work with someone who is coughing or discussing loss of taste and smell. 

Best Read of the Day:

The FDA is under fire for letting antibody testing on the market without proven results. They’re walking some of that back now...

F.D.A. Orders Companies to Submit Antibody Test Data

Best Laugh of the Day:

Image of 8-bit PacMan Video Game

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