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The Executive Briefing - Friday, December 17th

A 'viral blizzard' before the holidays ❄️

COVID Recap:

  • Omicron is already surging in the US, making up at least 13% of cases in NY, NJ, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, after less than 1% just a few weeks ago, indicating a very quick spread. (NY Times)
  • The Omicron variant doubles roughly every three days, and the virus multiplies 70x faster in the lungs than the original virus. (CIDRAP)
  • The UK and South Africa both broke single-day COVID case records for the entire pandemic this week. (CNN)
  • The CDC’s vaccine advisory group voted to recommend mRNA vaccines over the J&J shot now that we know more about increased risk of a specific type of blood clot. (STAT)
  • More companies are cancelling events, with Broadway shows shutting down due to illness, Apple delaying return to office indefinitely, and many cancelling conferences and holiday parties. Even the Queen cancelled her pre-Christmas lunch due to the surge. (NY Times)
  • Colorado hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients, crowding out other seriously ill people who need care. (NPR)
  • CA’s new mask mandate is for everyone in public indoor places, regardless of vaccination status. But San Francisco was allowed to retain its own mask rules, which allow fully vaccinated people to go maskless in gyms and workplaces. (NPR)
  • The Metropolitan Opera, Georgetown University and the NFL are among those requiring booster doses for staff and students. (Axios)
  • Kroger is the latest employer to end some of it’s COVID benefits for unvaccinated employees. (WSJ)
  • NYC issued guidance for their new employee vaccine mandate. (Fisher Phillips)
  • An HHS forecast shows that Omicron may be stressing the US testing supply which is already stretched thin. (Politico)
  • An anti-vaccine group staged a protest in a Cheesecake Factory in Queens, NY storming the hostess stand and engaging with staff after refusing to show vaccine cards. (HuffPo)

Today’s Health News:

  • Nearly one in three Americans skipped getting healthcare in the past three months because of concerns about cost. (CBS)
  • Flu is on the rise, especially in North Carolina. (WRAL)
  • A massive recall was expanded to over 2 million pounds of ham and pepperoni products due to possible listeria. (USA Today)

Best Questions:

How concerned should we be about Omicron?

It’s certainly concerning, and we think that all of our clients should be prepared to see a pretty massive surge in cases over the next month or so, likely peaking in mid-January much like it did last year. One expert called it a ‘viral blizzard,’ and unfortunately, we think that sounds about right. Our own clinical team is seeing a huge uptick in cases this week from employee wellness checks and sick calls. The UK and South Africa already hit their highest single-day case counts at any point in the pandemic this week, and cases are already up a whopping 41% over the past two weeks. All that plus holiday gatherings and travel mean we’re prepared for a serious surge that’s already started and likely won’t peak until mid-January.

Any tips for holiday travel?

Don’t ignore that cough - it might not be just a cold! Make sure that you stay home if you’re feeling sick, even if it means rescheduling plans you’re excited about. Unvaccinated people should delay travel, since their risk is much higher for getting COVID and being much more sick with it. If you can, test 1-3 days before your trip and 3-5 days after you return - this is a must for unvaccinated people, but definitely can’t hurt even if you’re vaccinated. Wear a mask in public places - including planes and other public transportation. And last but not least, think about how and where you’ll quarantine wherever you’re going if you do get sick during your travels.

Can you get your vaccine or booster if you’re already sick?

You should wait 10 days from when your symptoms start to get a vaccine or booster if you’re currently sick. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to reach peak effectiveness, and it won’t make you feel better any sooner, so there’s no immediate benefit to getting boosted while sick. Plus, you’ll put the healthcare workers who are giving out vaccines at risk by going to the clinic when you might be infectious. It’s better to stay home, and get your shot as soon as you meet the criteria for ending your self-isolation.

What’s the best day to test after an exposure? And do we need PCRs for that?

If you don’t have any symptoms, the best day to test after exposure is Day 5 through Day 7. If you develop symptoms of your own, you can (and should) test immediately and self-isolate. PCR tests are the most accurate, but two rapid tests taken 24 hours apart are similarly accurate. If you get a single rapid negative, we wouldn’t bank on that, but two a day apart are much more reliable. If someone is unvaccinated, they should still quarantine for 10 full days. Someone vaccinated and exposed doesn’t need to quarantine, but should wear a mask until they test negative on days 5-7.

Best Read:

A tantalizing clue to why omicron is spreading so quickly

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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.