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In-N-Out Bans Masks for Employees, Plus Another Oyster Recall

The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, July 18th, 2023

Health News:

  • In-N-Out Burger says it will soon ban employees from wearing masks in five of the seven states in which it operates (excluding CA and OR). (LA Times)
  • ER doctors worry that extreme heat will cause “mass casualty” events as temps continue to rise. (STAT)
  • Fortune brand oysters from Nova Scotia have been recalled due to norovirus contamination. They were delivered to restaurants in 17 states. (FDA)
  • A first-of-its-kind RSV drug to protect babies up to 2 years old at high risk for RSV has been approved by the FDA. (AP)
  • Some good COVID news: the total number of Americans dying each day is no longer historically abnormal, meaning COVID deaths are very low. (NY Times)
  • Some mediocre COVID news: wastewater levels, emergency room visits, and test positivity rates are increasing across the board (albeit from low numbers. (YLE)
  • Cannabis use is landing more young people in ERs. (CNN)
  • Syphilis cases in Houston are skyrocketing, especially among women. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Mississippi will start allowing religious exemptions to childhood vaccine requirements for daycare or school. (AP)
  • As wildfire smoke from Canada continues to spread in the northern US, and new wildfires are breaking out here, millions of Americans lack access to respiratory care. (PBS)
  • The CDC ended the investigation of the salmonella outbreak linked to Papa Murphy’s raw cookie dough and declared it over. (CDC)
  • People and animals are increasingly getting sick from exposure to toxic algae in lakes and rivers across the US. (USA Today)
  • Dozens of cats in Poland had the bird flu, but the risk is still low to moderate for cat-owners, says the WHO. (AP)

Mental Health News: 

  • A new law in OH requires sports coaches to complete training on youth mental health. (Fox)
  • More Americans are seeking mental health care than ever. (WSJ)
  • July is BIPOC mental health month, and Mental Health America has released a toolkit with resources by and for people of color. (MHA National)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions

Do you expect to see more restaurants banning masks?

Masks are a controversial topic, and seeing employees wear them means different things to different people. In-N-Out has said it will ban employee masks to “help promote clear…communication” and “show our Associates’ smiles.” Employees who want to wear a mask will need a medical note specifying a specific medical condition that requires them to wear one. Some infectious disease experts are coming out against it, saying it endangers employees. We think that allowing individual employees to wear masks when they feel it’s appropriate for them is still the best policy. Most won’t, and those who do may have a sick grandparent at home or a mother with cancer. Creating a blanket policy that requires employees to have their own medical condition ignores the reality that masking protects others, as well, and that people who are immunocompromised don’t get to declare COVID finished, even if it’s not a major issue for the rest of us. We don’t expect too many to follow suit with this policy and certainly advise waiting to see how this plays out if it’s challenged in court before making any policy changes. 

Source: LA Times

What is going on with cyclospora right now? 

The CDC just updated their cyclosporiasis numbers, nearly doubling the total confirmed cases so far this summer to a new total of 581. Cyclosporiasis is most common in the summer months, usually May-August. There have been over 1000 domestically-acquired cases per summer over the past few years, though, so while this jump is big, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these cases are all linked to large outbreaks. The FDA is actively investigating two outbreaks of Cyclospora, one with 112 cases and one with 38. It’s possible that those numbers will rise and the data hasn’t caught up to the FDA’s website, but it’s also likely that there are some cases that aren’t linked to the two known outbreaks. Those are also separate from the now-closed outbreak related to broccoli, which the CDC has said is over and unrelated to the new cases. Luckily, most cyclosporiasis happen in June and July, with lower numbers in the spring and late summer, so we’re hoping to see those numbers decrease as the summer goes on. 

Source: CDC, FDA

What will COVID boosters cost uninsured people this fall? 

The White House has launched a billion-dollar “Bridge Access” program aimed to help keep vaccines free for people who are uninsured or under-insured for the fall of 2023. For those with insurance, vaccines will remain free under their plans. But for those without insurance coverage, they’ll be able to access free vaccines at their own healthcare provider, pharmacies, and community health centers. No one in the US should have to pay out of pocket for COVID vaccines this fall. Note that this program is just for 2023, so we’ll continue to keep an eye on vaccine costs for individuals next year. 

Source: Reuters, CDC

Best Read:

As the planet warms, increasing worry about the impact that may have on infectious diseases - AP

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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.