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The Executive Briefing - Friday, February 25

CDC eases mask guidance where hospitals aren’t strained 😷

COVID Recap:

  • The CDC significantly eased indoor mask guidance today for most Americans, using a new metric including hospital capacity instead of transmission rates. (NPR)
  • The FDA is currently reviewing documentation to approve fall boosters of both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline will seek approval for their vaccine in the US and Europe, citing 100% prevention of hospitalizations. (AP)
  • Canada approved Medicago’s plant-based vaccine for COVID. (Reuters)
  • The CDC updated it’s recommended timing between first and second doses of Pfizer or Moderna, now recommending up to 8 weeks for most people since it may provide more enduring protection. Those 65+, immunocompromised, and those at severe risk should stick with the original schedule. (CDC)
  • Household spread is very common with Omicron, with about half getting sick if someone in their household did. Wearing masks, isolating in the house, and being vaccinated reduced the risk. (MMWR)
  • NYC’s mayor says he wants to end indoor vaccine mandates for dining, bars, and other indoor establishments. (Bloomberg)
  • Fox News host Neil Cavuto returned to the air after his second bout of COVID landed him in the ICU; he urged his viewers to get vaccinated. (Washington Post)
  • Most pregnant women in the UK are avoiding getting COVID shots, even though they are safe for both mother and child. (Bloomberg)
  • Experts say we might not need annual COVID shots, though occasional boosters may be needed as the virus mutates. (The Atlantic)

Today’s Health News:

  • There are reports of drug-resistant Shigella in the UK. (CIDRAP)
  • As mental health has reached an all-time low, there’s a silver lining: reducing stigma around acknowledging struggles and getting help. (USA Today)
  • Children’s mental health needs are impacting their parents’ work performance. (CBS)
  • A new study found an increased risk of C. difficile in hospitals. (CIDRAP)

Best Questions:

We’ve seen lots of Norovirus lately. What precautions should we be taking?

We’re seeing a huge increase in Noro across the country right now. The height of Noro season usually lasts from November to April, but can spread any time throughout the year. Norovirus is particularly tough because it’s extremely infectious; one person can shed billions of particles and it only takes a few to make someone sick. Noro spreads from direct contact with someone sick, contaminated food or water, or touching a contaminated surface and putting your unwashed hands in your mouth. Recognize the signs of Noro - diarrhea and vomiting, often both and at the same time. While these can be COVID symptoms, Noro doesn’t include respiratory symptoms. If someone has GI symptoms, they should not work! Ensure proper food handling, handwashing, keeping sick employees out for at least 48 hours after vomiting and diarrhea has stopped, and ensure that anyone who lives with the sick employee is excluded, as well. If you suspect Noro and someone worked within 24 hours of their symptom onset, do a thorough cleaning and disinfection (remember, QUAT sanitizer doesn’t kill Noro!). Noro sanitizing protocols should take time - cleaning every square inch of your space with an EPA-approved Noro sanitizer. Check out the ZZH or Zedic Apps for Noro Q&A and Action Plans, and our Noro Sanitizing Protocols.

Why is the CDC changing their mask guidance?

The CDC announced this afternoon that they’ve changed the metrics they use to determine whether masks are recommended. Previously, they recommended masks (even for vaccinated people) in areas with high or substantial transmission rates - but that makes up about 95% of counties in the US. The new measure they’ll use will consider caseloads, hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, which are not as severely impacted during the Omicron surge, in part because Omicron appears to be less severe, especially for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Nearly 70% of Americans are now in areas where masks indoors are optional instead of recommended.

With the ETS tabled while we wait to see what OSHA does, why do we still need vaccination tracking?

Even without the federal OSHA ETS, it’s important to know your employees’ vaccination status to comply with local regulations like mask and indoor vaccination mandates. In California, employers must know their employees’ vaccination status, and those who aren’t up to date have different requirements and exclusion lengths after exposure or illness. Even in districts where there’s no mask or vaccination mandate for indoors, the CDC’s recommended exclusion guidance is different for those who are exposed and unvaccianted, requiring a quarantine after close contact with someone COVID+ where employees who are fully up to date on vaccinations don’t need to stay home at all.

We’re scheduling an in-person event soon. What’s your best guidance on testing before, during, and after?

First, if possible, we highly recommend requiring everyone to be vaccinated and boosted to attend your event in-person. That’s by far the most effective way to prevent a COVID outbreak, and especially if the event includes managers, leaders, and others that your employees look up to, it sends a great message. Regardless of whether you require vaccination for the event, we recommend testing before travel and at least the first day of the event or, if possible, each day. Rapid tests should suffice for this. If this event is multi-days at a hotel, distribute tests to attendees’ hotel rooms so they can test in private. You should have an action plan (including accommodations, food, and return travel) for anyone who tests positive.


Best Read:

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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.