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The Executive Briefing - Friday, February 11th

More mask mandates dropped 😷

COVID Recap:

  • The CDC is warning against dropping school mask requirements, with some experts concerned a new surge will occur after schools remove precautions. (Reuters)
  • NY has joined the list of states removing indoor mask or vaccination requirements, though NY schools still require masks. (NY Times)
  • The CDC is considering updating mask guidance in light of so many state governors lifting mask mandates, potentially using hospital capacity instead of case rates to determine when masks are necessary. (Politico)
  • The false positive rate on rapid tests is actually less than 0.15%, according to a study done in Canada across a large number of rapid tests conducted in workplaces. And even that low rate was skewed higher by two lots of one brand of test. (Optometry Times)
  • J&J has paused production on its COVID vaccine, despite requests for the vaccine from the US and abroad. (NY Times)
  • An appeals court declined to block a lower court ruling barring President Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate, meaning it’s still on hold. (NBC)
  • CA reinstated supplemental sick leave, allowing up to 2 weeks PTO for COVID-related illness, vaccination appointments, caring for sick family, or caring for a child who can’t go to school due to quarantine. (LA Times)
  • $66.5 million will be distributed to local community groups to promote vaccination. (NPR)
  • Chinese scientists are reporting they’ve developed a 4-minute COVID test with PCR-like accuracy. (CBS)
  • The US Dept. of Homeland Security warns that the trucker protests could come to the US, with some plans to disrupt the Super Bowl and the State of the Union. (The Hill)
  • Vaccines for kids under 5 still need to be approved, but when they are, there are millions of shots ready for rollout by Feb. 21st. (CNBC)
  • COVID takes a serious toll on heart health, increasing the chance of heart attacks, strokes, arrhythmia, and more. Even those who never went to the hospital had more cases of heart disease than those who never had COVID. (Science)

Today’s Health News:

  • The Surgeon General has said that the pandemic has had a ‘devastating’ impact on youth mental health. (ABC)
  • A Wisconsin resident has died from listeria linked to packaged salads from Dole. 17 people in 13 states were infected. (NBC15)
  • The CDC has said that the recent bird flu outbreaks in the US pose a low risk to the general public, though hunters and poultry plants should take extra precautions. (CDC)
  • There’s a new vaccine trial for Nipah virus, a bat-borne virus that can spread to humans and then person-to-person. Nipah has been identified as one of the four top virus threats for the next major global epidemic. (CIDRAP)
  • Some companies are rethinking bereavement leave, especially as loss and mental health conversations enter the workplace. (Wall Street Journal)

Best Questions:

An employee had COVID two weeks ago, but now their entire family is slowly getting sick. Is there any risk that the employee is still spreading the virus?

This is very common, and while we’re still learning about the virus, most of the science shows that once someone has recovered from their own confirmed COVID infection, they are not passing the virus along to others, even if they’re being exposed to it. So, once someone meets the criteria for ending their own isolation, they are set to return to work. We do still recommend that they wear a mask at work, preferably until after the last family member has recovered, in part to reduce the small risk of transmission, and in part to help assuage any concerns from other staff or guests.

Can a fully vaccinated, boosted employee who has no symptoms work even if they tested positive?

No. If someone has tested positive, regardless of their vaccination status or symptoms, they must stay home for at least 5 days, since the fact that they tested positive means they have enough viral load that they may be infectious. Luckily, because they’re fully vaxxed and boosted, they’re likely to stay asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms, but they can still be infectious, so they’ll need to stay home until they meet the CDC’s criteria to return to work.

Can we ask someone to test negative before returning to work? Would we want to?

The CDC doesn’t recommend requiring return to work testing in most situations, in part because COVID positive people may continue to test positive for days or weeks after their initial infection, even after they’re no longer infectious to others. They go so far as to say that “employers should not require a sick employee to provide a negative COVID test result” to return to work. There are some examples of when you might consider return-to-work testing, like in California in order to return someone sooner than 10 days (if they’re symptoms have resolved). In general, the only time we’d recommend requiring a test to return to work is when you’re operating in a locale that requires an isolation period of longer than 5 days, but allows earlier return with a negative test.

If someone has just a sore throat, how long should we be excluding them?

Especially in the winter, a sore throat as a standalone symptom can be very common. First, it’s always important to double check that the employee truly has no other symptoms. Often people report the most severe symptom, but with prompting they admit that they also have a runny nose and fatigue, for example. It’s also important to ensure they haven’t had close contact with someone COVID positive. If sore throat is truly the only symptom (and they haven’t been exposed), we recommend keeping them out for at least a day, and letting them return to work once their sore throat is resolved. If it’s the first symptom of COVID, they’ll develop others pretty quickly, and you can (and should) adjust their exclusion based on any new symptoms. If their sore throat resolves without any other symptoms developing, they can return to work once they feel better.

Best Read:

Most vulnerable still in jeopardy as COVID precautions ease - AP 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.