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The Executive Briefing - Friday, August 26th

Will monkeypox cause staffing shortages?


  • COVID is not over - we’ve just hit a million worldwide deaths for the year 2022. (CIDRAP)
  • Moderna followed Pfizer by requesting authorization for its BA.4/BA.5 specific COVID booster. (Moderna)
  • How well the booster works for you could depend on your previous exposure. (WSJ)
  • Wastewater surveillance is a key part of understanding COVID trends (and polio and monkeypox), but funding is inconsistent. (KHN)
  • A new study shows that Paxlovid had little to no effect for younger adults. It’s still quite effective for older adults, especially those 65 and up.  (AP)
  • COVID cases are falling globally, with a 15% reduction in deaths, but experts are still wary about the fall and winter. (AP)
  • Up to 4 million Americans are out of work due to long COVID, which may be part of the labor shortage we’re seeing. (Axios)
  • Moderna is suing Pfizer/BioNTech, saying they stole their mRNA technology used in the COVID vaccine, among others. (NBC)
  • SARS-CoV-2 has developed an incubation period more similar to seasonal coronaviruses. (Ars Technica)

Monkeypox News:

  • Globally, monkeypox cases are down 21% this week, but the US still has the highest cases of any country. (AP)
  • 3 children in Georgia have been diagnosed with monkeypox. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • One man tested positive for COVID, monkeypox, and HIV after a trip to Spain. (Newsweek)
  • About 500,000 doses of expired monkeypox vaccine may still be viable, and the manufacturer is working with the FDA to confirm they’re safe to use. (Reuters)
  • About half of gay, bisexual and other people in the LGBTQ+ community who have sex with men are changing their sexual habits to help curb the spread of monkeypox, according to a new study. (CDC)
  • Even though monkeypox is rare in kids, schools are preparing just in case. (CNN)

Public Health News:

  • New type-2 diabetes diagnoses rose 77% in kids in the pandemic. (CIDRAP)
  • The polio virus has been circulating in the US intermittently for years. (Medpage Today)
  • Childhood vaccines prevented 24 million cases of vaccine-preventable disease in just a single year in the US. (CIDRAP)
  • ‘Tomato flu’, an infection that causes large red blisters that look similar to monkeypox but doesn’t appear to be related, is spreading in children in India. (Washington Post)
  • Clinical trials for Pfizer’s RSV vaccine show promise against severe disease which impacts older adults and young children most significantly. (Pfizer)
  • Reported E.coli cases have risen to 84 with most linked to Wendy’s romaine lettuce used on burgers and sandwiches. (Reuters)

Mental Health News:

  • Americans are starting to skip therapy due to money troubles. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Psilocybin, a type of psychedelic mushroom, drastically reduced drinking in those with alcohol use disorder. (NY Times)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Can we expect absences and staffing issues similar to COVID from monkeypox if it continues to spread at the rate it has been?

The good news is that monkeypox appears to be slowing down a bit. If we can contain the spread and continue to ramp up vaccination and testing, this may not be a large-scale epidemic in the same way it seemed to be headed just a few weeks ago. But cases are still rising and the US has the most cases of any country in the world, so there’s still a chance that it spreads out of control. Even now, it’s affecting staffing because those infected have to stay out a full 14-21 days in most cases. If it were to spread to other population groups beyond men who have sex with men, where the vast majority of cases are now seen, we’d expect this to have a larger effect on staffing and absences. We’re hopeful that these new lower case counts are the beginning of a major downturn, but we’ll continue to wait and watch carefully to see if the trend continues.

Can we ask for a doctor’s note for someone who tells us they have or think they have monkeypox? What should it say?

Yes, you can ask for a doctor’s note clearing someone to work if they have symptoms consistent with monkeypox. All doctor’s notes should state that the employee has been examined by a doctor and cleared to work on a specific date. It doesn’t need to state that they’ve been tested for monkeypox, specifically -  we’ve seen lots of cases where someone was convinced they had monkeypox and their medical provider was quickly able to rule that out and give an alternative diagnosis. All that you want to know is that they’ve sought medical attention and the doctor thinks it’s okay that they can work.

Will the health department contact us when we have a confirmed case of monkeypox?

We’re not seeing that health departments are contacting employers to notify them of positive monkeypox cases. We’ve only had one health department contact anyone that we’re aware of across our client base (this one was in Southern California), and we haven’t seen it since. Because there’s very little risk for workplace transmission, we think that this is low on the priority list for health departments. They’re focusing on contacting sexual partners and members of the same household.

What are the key messages for co-workers when they know (or suspect) a co-worker has monkeypox?

First, and most importantly, you should stress that there is a very, very low risk of workplace transmission. It takes prolonged skin to skin contact and may be transmitted through bodily fluids. Nearly all of the transmission in this outbreak thus far has been either sexual or members of the same household. Although the virus may live on surfaces for a longer period of time than we previously thought, it doesn’t seem to be actually transmitted in that way. If anyone has had sex or lives with someone who has monkeypox symptoms, or if they have symptoms themselves, they should stay home and seek medical attention. For everyone else, the risk is very low.

Best Read:

Unraveling the Interplay of Omicron, Reinfections, and Long Covid | Kaiser Health News

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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.