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.
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.
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!
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.
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.