Roslyn is joined this week by Jonathan Maze, Editor-in-Chief for Restaurant Business, a Winsight Media company, one of the leaders in the business of analyzing and reporting on the foodservice industry. Jonathan's got a unique perspective on the ways in which foodservice is adapting and evolving (or not!) in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
If you missed our Flash Briefing yesterday, check out the recording here!
We covered Omicron, testing, vaccine effectiveness, the rise of other illnesses like Flu and Hep A, and updates on the OSHA vaccine mandate.
First, while there’s still a lot we don’t know about Omicron, scientists do suspect that our vaccines provide some significant level of protection against the new variant, especially against serious illness, hospitalization, and death. And there’s another good reason to get the shot - when more people are vaccinated, the virus circulates less and gives new variants less of a chance to evolve. If more people get vaccinated, fewer people get sick, and fewer people spread the virus, so it can’t mutate and keep changing into potentially more dangerous versions.
We don’t actually have enough information to know that yet. Initial reports of how quickly it’s spreading in southern Africa are alarming. Scientists measure infectiousness or transmissibility through the number of new cases spread by each person who tests positive. One study out of South Africa shows that number at about 2 new cases per infected person, compared to less than 1 back in September. That’s scary, since it might indicate that Omicron has the potential to spread more quickly. But all of these numbers are very small to be drawing conclusions this early, and there are so many confounding factors - vaccination rate, previous infections, excellent genetic virus testing in South Africa - that might be making the data look like it’s trending in one direction or another. We’re really in a wait-and-see phase. If Omicron starts to spread as quickly in other parts of the world as it has in southern Africa, we’ll know that it does spread more easily. We should know more in the next week or two.
Not yet, at least not according to the CDC, but this is something that we do think might end up changing now that Omicron’s here on the scene. The CDC recently changed its wording around boosters for healthy adults in low-risk settings, from “may” get a booster to “should” get a booster, fueled by concerns about Omicron. It might be the first step toward requiring an additional dose to be considered fully vaccinated, but we suspect that the CDC will wait for more hard evidence about the effectiveness of boosters against the Omicron variant before they make any changes to their official definition of fully vaccinated.
Officially, we haven’t heard anything from the CDC that indicates that they’ll change their guidelines for fully vaccinated people who are exposed to someone COVID positive. But we’re seeing so many breakthrough cases related to household exposure, and we know that some public health experts are questioning whether the guidance should require quarantine for those who are living with someone sick. We wouldn’t be surprised if the CDC were to change their guidance for those living in the same house as someone COVID positive, but we also know that any changes related to breakthrough cases are fuel for the anti-vax fire, so the CDC will definitely proceed carefully.