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The Executive Briefing - Friday, December 10th

NY mask mandate đź—˝ plus more on boosters

Best Listen:

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Roslyn joined Jonathan Maze from Restaurant Business on his podcast, A Deeper Dive, to discuss what restaurants can do to protect their workers amid the next wave of COVID.

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Listen here!

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COVID Recap:

  • Omicron may likely outcompete Delta, and shows some early signs of spreading more easily between vaccinated people which could spell trouble for America’s already-overwhelmed hospitals. (STAT)
  • COVID has spurred the largest payout in life insurance claims since the flu pandemic of 1918.  (WSJ)
  • The FDA approved Pfizer as a booster dose for 16 and 17 year olds this week, making it the only booster approved for teens at the moment - and the CDC “strongly recommends” it. (Axios)
  • The Pfizer vaccine loses strength against the Omicron variant, new studies show, but it regains it with a booster. It’s key that everyone gets a booster dose! (STAT)
  • The Senate voted to block the OSHA vaccine mandate for businesses, though experts believe it’s unlikely to pass in the House. (The Hill)
  • NY state implemented a mask mandate for all indoor public places that don’t have a vaccine requirement, as case counts skyrocket. (NBC)
  • The effort to vaccinate US kids is off to a slow start, with only about 5 out of 28 million eligible kids having been vaccinated thus far. (Reuters)
  • Nearly 34,000 LA school kids haven’t complied with the vaccine mandate in time to be fully vaccinated before they return to campus in January. The current mandate states that unvaccinated kids must learn remotely and can’t come on campus. (LA Times)
  • The CDC’s data on vaccination rates appears faulty for adults 65+, which hampers public health experts from focusing on the right audiences. (KHN)
  • Allergies might actually be good for something! People with allergic conditions appear to have a lower risk for getting COVID. (BMJ)
  • Google and Uber delayed their return to the office for in-person work indefinitely, in part due to Omicron. (Washington Post)
  • One in ten Americans say that getting vaccinated violates their religious beliefs, while 60% believe there’s no valid religious reason not to get the shot, according to a new poll. (NPR)

Today’s Health News:

  • Flu activity around the world and in the US is rising, but it’s still at lower rates than previous years, likely due to COVID precautions. (WHO)
  • COVID may have caused one flu strain, B Yamagata, to go extinct. (WSJ)
  • Bird flu is surging worldwide, with hotspots in the UK and China. A huge range of birds are affected, and it can spread to humans - with one death this week of a woman in Hong Kong who had contact with an infected bird. (BBC, CIDRAP)
  • A norovirus outbreak in Spokane, WA has closed a shelter there after at least 40 became sick. (Spokesman)


Best Questions:

Should we still be preparing for the OSHA ETS with all the legal noise surrounding it?

Most of the national law firms and the Society for HR Management continue to advise that there are steps you should be taking now to be prepared for whatever happens.  Most importantly, you’re going to need to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t.  Here’s an excellent guide from Fisher Phillips with some key steps they advise taking now, like collecting information about your workforce (like vaccination status) and drafting policies and procedures, so your ducks are in a row if action is required. Most aren’t going so far as to purchase tests yet, unless required by state or local governments.

Rapid tests seem a little easier to find these days.  Are they all basically the same if we can buy them over the counter?

Rapid tests vary in two major ways: how quick and easy they are to use, and how likely they are to give a false negative result. All rapid tests are very accurate for positive results - if they say you have COVID, you almost certainly have COVID. The range of false negative results can be anywhere from 3% to over 20%, assuming you follow the instructions correctly. Overall, though, most rapid tests are similar in accuracy and any brand you can get at your local pharmacy is great. When choosing a test, be sure to check the instructions - a few take 30 minutes for results, while most take 10-15. If you’re looking for tests for employees to take before work, the shorter the better to reduce the risk of exposure to any managers and coworkers while they wait for those results.

Do employees returning from travel abroad for the holidays need to test or quarantine?

The current requirement is that everyone returning to the US from traveling abroad needs a negative COVID test no more than 24 hours before air travel back to the US - regardless of whether you’re a citizen or whether you’re fully vaccinated. Airlines will check for your negative test before you board the plane. Those who recently recovered from COVID within 90 days of the flight can show a positive test result and a note from a doctor clearing them to travel. The US isn’t currently requiring quarantine for international travelers returning home, though the situation is far from static and anyone traveling abroad should keep a close eye on changing requirements in both their destination and back in the US.

Why do vaccinated people need to quarantine for 10 full days if they test positive? Will the CDC reduce the length of exclusions for vaccinated people?

Currently, the CDC treats any COVID infection - breakthrough or regular - the same in terms of isolation. Everyone COVID positive should isolate for 10 days from the day their symptoms started. But for many who are fully vaccinated (and boosted), they feel better and start testing negative much earlier than 10 days, indicating that they no longer have a high enough viral load to infect others.  Several studies indicate that a vaccinated person with a breakthrough case is infectious at a lower level and for a shorter period of time - even as short as five days.  Our CDC contacts do confirm that an update to exclusion guidance is under consideration, but couldn’t give us much insight into timing. All that said, the studies on this subject are still relatively small and don’t take into consideration the Omicron variant, so that may hold any changes up until we understand more about its transmission.

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Best Read:

Why Are We Still Isolating Vaccinated People for 10 Days?

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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.