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The Executive Briefing - Friday, April 8th

What to do with expiring tests?

Flash Briefing - Managing Sick Employees in Today's Staffing Crisis

Wednesday, April 13
3:00 - 4:00 Eastern Time

In the midst of a staffing crisis, managers can be your best defense or worst enemies when it comes to sick employees. Between norovirus, COVID, allergies, and mental health issues, managers play a big part in deciding who works, who stays home, and for how long. We'll discuss tools managers need to manage call outs, resources for employees and managers alike that can help reduce health-related staffing issues, and how to mitigate the impact of sick calls on the ongoing staffing crisis.

Register here!

COVID Recap:

  • The FDA is meeting to discuss the need for an updated variant-specific booster in the fall. (NPR)
  • While nationwide numbers are still falling, over half the states are seeing them begin to rise again. (Axios)
  • COVID funding is stalled in the senate over a tangential pandemic-related border policy. (AP)
  • The Attorney General, Nancy Pelosi, and dozens of other DC elites are COVID positive, with rumors that a few large events led to the spread. (Politico)
  • Cases are spiking again in New York City and Washington, D.C.
  • The US is likely to see an uptick over the next few weeks and a significant COVID surge in the fall again, according to Dr. Fauci. (CNN)
  • Philadelphia may reinstitute its indoor mask mandate amid rising cases. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • The WHO is being criticized for the fact that it took almost two years to acknowledge that this was an airborne virus. (Nature)
  • COVID infections set off massive inflammation in the body, the cause of many of the complications associated with it. (CNN)
  • A federal appeals court reinstated the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal employees, overturning an injunction from a TX judge from January. (WSJ)
  • Omicron causes different symptoms than Delta did, with faster recovery, and less chance of loss of taste or smell. (The Guardian)

Today’s Health News:

  • The FDA is warning of a norovirus outbreak linked to raw oysters from British Columbia, Canada which have caused illness in at least 400 people across the US and Canada. They were distributed to suppliers in over a dozen US states. (CBS)
  • A man in Dallas has the county’s first West Nile case of the year. (Dallas Morning News)
  • An E.coli outbreak in France is linked to frozen pizza, with over 75 cases and two deaths in children. (Brussels Times)
  • The ongoing bird flu means that millions of poultry will need to be slaughtered, with many questions about how best to do that. (ABC)
  • The CDC has updated vaccine recommendations to now include the Hepatitis B vaccination series for most adults ages 19-59 . (CDC)

Best Questions:

We bought a lot of tests that now have expired use dates.  Can we still use them?

Don’t throw out your expired tests just yet! The FDA extended the expiration dates on many of them, so first, check the FDA’s website or call the manufacturer to see if yours might have an extension. For many of these tests, the FDA wants real-time data on how they last, and so many of them are so new that they were initially approved with a short expiration date, and the FDA continues to push out that date as evidence shows that the products aren’t going bad. Even if it’s a little past its expiration date, our understanding is that most tests probably still work. If they haven’t frozen or gotten really hot, and the control line is showing up properly, most experts agree you’re likely fine to continue to use a test even if it’s a bit past the expiration date.

Do we still need to be doing contact tracing everywhere?

Yes, you should still be doing contact tracing and keeping unvaccinated people and those who aren’t up to date on their booster out of work for 5 days after exposure. The reality is that people are still at high risk of getting COVID after close contact - the recent number of cases among political figures in DC is a great example. If you don’t exclude close contacts, you might end up having to close down for a few days to break the cycle of illness. You only need to worry about close contacts who aren’t up to date on their vaccinations, so the more vaccinated and boosted employees you have, the less contact tracing you’ll need to do!

Do we need to report Norovirus to the health department?

While this is a question for your legal and regulatory advisors, the answer is…sometimes.  Norovirus is always a reportable disease, but the reporting entity is technically the diagnosing medical provider or laboratory who conducted the test. Many people are never actually laboratory diagnosed with Noro - more often, the diagnosis is presumptive.  For example, an emergency room doctor has seen dozens of patients this week with vomiting and diarrhea, testing was done on several and Noro confirmed. That ER doc will likely not test other patients this week, but assume that they have Noro if presenting with the same symptoms in the same community.  However, different health departments have different requirements for what restaurants, food service providers and employers in general should report.  In Minnesota, the health department is clear that they expect every suspected case to be reported by a restaurant (and every guest complaint about possible illness).  For ZHH Pro clients, we can help assess the situation and will often recommend calling the health department before they call you (or show up) when you have a single confirmed Noro or several suspected cases.  

What do we know about the XE variant?

It was first detected in England, which has relatively strong variant tracking compared to the US. It’s a recombinant virus, meaning it’s a combination of the original Omicron strain (BA.1) and the newer variant (BA.2). Early evidence shows that it’s even more infectious than BA.2, but it’s very early to draw any real conclusions about how transmissible or severe it is. Overall, most experts expect there to be lots of mutated versions of the virus like this, and only time will tell if it’s a serious variant that we’re concerned about (like Omicron was) or if it’s just a blip. It’s normal for the virus to continue to mutate, and scientists will continue to keep an eye on new variants and consider whether newly formulated vaccine boosters are necessary to help prevent more spread.

Best Read:

The Atlantic:  Is America Facing It's First So What Wave?  Is it a Double Whammy We Won't See Coming?

Best Laugh:

KT Wiz Korean baseball team destroy coronavirus as part of their Opening Day ceremony

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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.