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The Executive Briefing - Friday, December 3rd

Omicron in 5 states, plus OSHA updates & more

New Episode Out Today with Jonathan Maze


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.

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts!

Missed our Flash Briefing?

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.



COVID Recap:

  • President Biden called on businesses to move forward with vaccination or weekly testing programs as part of his comprehensive plan to protect Americans against the Delta and Omicron variants this winter. (White House)
  • OSHA extended the comment period by 45 days for the COVID vaccination and testing ETS to Jan. 19 to allow stakeholders additional time to review the ETS and collect info. (OSHA)
  • And OSHA filed suit against the truck manufacturer Peterbilt for allegedly firing an employee who raised COVID workplace safety concerns. (OSHA)
  • The CDC ordered airlines to share passenger data from travelers coming to the US from southern Africa in order to do testing and contact tracing. (Reuters)
  • The Omicron variant has now been found in at least 5 US states (CA, NY, MN, CO, and HI), indicating that there’s likely already domestic spread. (CBS)
  • Many public health experts opposed the Biden administration’s boosters-for-all approach, citing lack of evidence that they were necessary, but Omicron is changing the calculus, and many of those same experts are now in favor of boosters for all.  (NY Times)
  • One preprint South African study says that Omicron is 3x more likely to cause reinfection than Delta. While it’s still early (and not yet peer reviewed), it does imply that those who’ve had COVID before shouldn’t bank on being fully protected. (Washington Post)
  • A study found that booster shots dramatically strengthen immunity - as much as 25 to 32 fold. (The Guardian)
  • Deciding whether to host that office holiday party? A company party was the source for 50+ new infections in Norway, including at least one Omicron case. (Newsweek)
  • Germany is requiring lockdown only for unvaccinated people, and is planning to make shots mandatory for all German citizens. (CNN)
  • With Federal COVID sick leave gone, workers are feeling the pressure to show up to work, even when they’re sick. (KHN)

Today’s Health News:

  • The last patient hospitalized from the Roanoke VA Hepatitis A outbreak was discharged  this week more than two months after a liver transplant.  Case count stands at 55 guests infected with Hep A, three deaths and this one guest who required a transplant. (WSLS)
  • There’s a Yellow Fever outbreak in Ghana, with over 200 suspected cases. There’s a vaccine recommended for US travelers to areas with high Yellow Fever rates.  (WHO)
  • Flu is on the rise in the US, with New Mexico, Georgia, and Rhode Island as hotspots. Doctors are reporting more cases in young people. (Healthline)

Best Questions:

If we don’t know how well vaccines work against the Omicron variant, what’s the best messaging for why get vaccinated now?

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.


Is the Omicron variant more or less infectious than the Delta variant?

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.

Do employees need to get boosters to be considered fully vaccinated?

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.


Will vaccinated employees who have close contact with someone COVID+ continue to be able to work?

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.



Best Read:

What Happens If the OSHA Vaccine Mandate Goes Into Effect?


Best Laugh:

Watch: The Daily Show - What makes the Omicron variant so dangerous is that nobody knows how to say it

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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.