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The Executive Briefing - Friday, April 22nd

Hepatitis in kids, plus does a mask protect you if you’re the only one wearing it?

COVID Recap:

  • Across the US, cases are up a full 50%, but hospitalizations are down. (KHN)
  • Italy’s positive tests quadrupled to nearly 100,000 new cases in a single day earlier this week. (Reuters)
  • The Justice Department has appealed the ruling that struck down transportation mask mandates, at the request of the CDC. Experts are concerned about eroding the authority of public health agencies to respond to emergencies. (CNBC, NY Times)
  • Despite celebratory videos of travelers and flight attendants ditching their masks after the transportation mask mandate fell, most Americans (56%) support wearing masks on planes and other public transport. (ABC)
  • An LA testing company faked results and will pay more than $20million in a settlement. (LA Times)
  • Moderna says its redesigned vaccine shows promise against the newest COVID variants. (NPR)
  • A senior prom turned into a super-spreading event in San Mateo, CA after more than 90 of the 600 prom-goers tested positive later. (Yahoo)
  • CDC’s vaccine advisory group met this week to discuss the future of booster recommendations, and acknowledges that the next booster might need to be a new, variant-specific formula, or a two-in-one flu and COVID vaccine. (CNN)
  • A healthcare worker has contracted two separate cases of COVID just 20 days apart, a record so far. (Bloomberg)
  • Moderna will apply for an EUA for its vaccine in kids aged 6 months - 5 years. (Reuters)
  • The NIH has granted money to develop a national platform for reporting at-home COVID tests. There are 4x more unreported positive home tests than reported tests. (APHL)
  • Kaiser Health reports that nearly 250,000 U.S. COVID deaths were vaccine preventable, one out of every four COVID deaths in this country. (Yahoo News)

Today’s Health News:

  • The CDC launched a new forecasting center, aiming to be like the ‘National Weather Service for infectious disease.’ (CNN)
  • North Carolina is the second US state to report unusual hepatitis cases in young kids, with hundreds of other cases in Europe. The leading hypothesis is that infection with a common cold virus, adenovirus, is triggering liver inflammation. (STAT)
  • There’s a recall on organic zucchini due to possible salmonella contamination. (FDA)
  • Investigators are scouring a New Jersey high school to search for a source after over 100 people linked to the school developed brain tumors over the past 30 years. (NBC)
  • 42 victims of the Famous Anthony’s Hepatitis A outbreak in Virginia last year are awaiting a decision from the bankruptcy court on their compensation.  (WSLS)
  • Anti-vaccine legislation is gaining ground in states that previously supported childhood vaccinations, which are a crucial measure for preventing things like measles, polio, and mumps. (KHN)
  • Bars are handing out free fentanyl test strips to help prevent accidental overdoses. (Reuters)
  • 1.4 million chickens have been killed in Lancaster, PA after an outbreak of avian flu was detected. (Lancaster Online)

Best Questions:

Does wearing my mask protect me even if others don’t?

Now that mask mandates are a thing of the past on planes, trains, and Ubers, people are wondering whether “one-way masking” really does anything. Masks certainly work best when everyone is wearing them, but they do provide protection for the wearer - so if you’re traveling and wondering whether your mask does you any good, it certainly still can make a difference in preventing infection, especially if it’s a well-fitting N95, KN95, or KF94. Having a tight seal matters - in one study, a cloth mask reduced exposure by about 60%, a surgical mask about 75%, and an N95 by about 99%. So any mask will protect you, even if no one else around you is wearing one, but the higher quality the better.

We had an employee who thought they had Hep A, and then (after a stressful time!), we found out they didn’t. What happened? 

This is something that actually happens much more than you might think (twice for our clients just this week) -  with Hep A and many other diagnoses. With Hep A, people who are vaccinated may test positive on either a Hep A Total screen or a Hep A antibody test.  This is perfectly normal and means that you have an immune response, which is what we hope happens when you get a vaccine for anything. Sometimes, health care providers, who are less experienced and who aren’t Hep A experts, misinterpret results and incorrectly tell patients they may have Hepatitis A. Sometimes employees read their own results incorrectly, as well. With Hep A, there are specific symptoms (the most common ones are yellowing skin or eyes and dark urine) that we’d expect. Without those symptoms present, it’s unlikely the provider actually tests them for Hepatitis A IgG/IgM, which is the test that most accurately tells us if someone has current, active and infectious Hepatitis A, versus antibodies present from an old infection or Hep A vaccination.

If an employee is still testing positive after 10 days, can they return to work?

Yes, as long as their symptoms have improved and their respiratory and GI symptoms are resolved. Some people continue to test positive for weeks after their infection, but the science shows that the vast majority of people aren’t infectious after 10 days. Some people who are very, very sick with COVID or who have weakened immune systems may need to isolate for longer and should consult with their doctor, but otherwise, as long as it’s been 10 days, someone can return even if they’re still coming up positive on tests. 

Was the public health emergency extended and why is that important?

HHS has extended the nationwide public health emergency for another 90 days. One of the biggest implications of the public health emergency being declared was a relaxation of telehealth rules, expanding coverage of audio-only calls and mental health services virtually. It also means that private insurers and Medicare need to cover at-home tests. It’s been extended multiple times since it was declared in January, 2020, and the government has promised at least 60 days notice for providers before it ends, so we expect to hear plenty about it before it’s officially over. 

Best Read:

Transportation Mask Mandate Struck Down: What it Means for Employers | Fisher Phillips

Best Laugh:

Instagram - People Who Still Haven't Had COVID

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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.