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The Executive Briefing - Friday, January 21st

CalOSHA + Updated Exclusion Chart! 👷

New Episode Out Today with the WSJ's Chip Cutter!

Roslyn chats today with Chip Cutter, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, whose beat includes workplace culture, management, and leadership issues. His stories often explore how work is changing today. He writes frequently on return-to-office efforts, hybrid work and related challenges in the pandemic. Enjoy!

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts!

ZHH News

Updates to Exclusion Chart for California

  • The latest CalOSHA requirements don’t align with the CDC’s guidance for isolation and quarantine, instead sticking with 10 days with the option to return after 5 with a negative test on Day 5.
  • To reflect that, we’ve updated our ZHH Zedic Exclusion Chart with CA-specific guidelines.
  • For our wellness check clients, starting tomorrow (1/22) we’ll be asking employees to let us know if they work in CA, and using the appropriate 10-day exclusion when necessary.

COVID Recap:

  • The Biden administration’s rollout of free COVID tests is being criticized for missing those who need them most - those in multifamily homes, who don’t speak English fluently, or who lack internet access. (KHN)
  • Your genes dictate whether or not loss of taste or smell is a COVID symptom you’ll get.  (Nature)
  • Getting Pfizer’s new antiviral prescribed and then filled can take serious work.  (NY Times)
  • The government will provide millions of free N95 masks at community health centers and pharmacies. (Politico)
  • Philadelphia will no longer allow a negative COVID test to enter indoor dining and events, requiring vaccination instead. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • A top FL public health official was put on leave… after encouraging his employees to get vaccinated. (Washington Post)
  • New Mexico has called in the National Guard to act as substitute teachers because so many of their teaching staff are out sick with COVID. (Reuters)
  • Starbucks is one of the first major employers to ditch it’s vaccine mandate in light of the OSHA ruling. Most other major companies are keeping it in place for now. (AP)
  • Just because your initial COVID is mild doesn’t mean you won’t get long COVID. (NY Times)
  • A record 9 million Americans - about 6% of the entire US workforce- were out sick last week, either with COVID or caring for someone with the virus. (CBS)
  • New rules went into effect this week for truck drivers crossing into Canada, and the US Dept. of Homeland Security indicates similar new restrictions will follow for entering the US.  (Transport Topics)
  • Further studies didn’t support throat swabbing as a testing technique, contrary to the findings of an earlier Israeli study. (MedPage Today)

Today’s Health News:

  • Labs and medical facilities are being advised on how to conserve blood collection tubes, due to a nationwide shortage. (FDA)
  • A third guest has died in the Montgomery County, PA Hepatitis A outbreak. (ABC)
  • The FDA began on site inspections related to the recent e.Coli outbreak linked to packaged salads (which is now over).  (FDA)

Best Questions:

Why are people testing negative repeatedly before they end up testing positive?

We’re seeing lots of this happening, and potentially more with Omicron than previous variants. It could be related to some early reports that with Omicron, the viral load tends to be highest in the throat and takes longer to build up in the nose. It could be that people are getting tested too early, since there’s strong evidence that rapid tests catch positive cases a day or two later than more sensitive PCR tests. It is extremely important to reiterate that if you have symptoms, you should stay home until they’re improving, even if you test negative. And likewise for those who are exposed, you should stay home at least 5 days and continue to mask up once you end your quarantine!

What do the new CalOSHA rules mean for us?

CalOSHA has an emergency temporary standard for CA, which may only be in place for a few more months. But it has the possibility of being extended through the end of 2022, or could be replaced by a more permanent standard (like the federal ETS). Considering that 1 out of every 8 Americans is a California resident, it’s important to make sure we’re staying on the right side of CalOSHA. To do that, we recommend making the changes we listed above, and consulting with your legal team about the other important parts of the latest version of regulations that they published last week.

We’re seeing so many unvaxxed and vaxxed get sick and test positive. Is there any differentiation between their return to work dates?

No, there isn’t any differentiation between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in terms of exclusion length if they’re sick or COVID positive. Symptoms take precedent over both vaccination status or exposure.  We are, fortunately, seeing much less severe illness and shorter duration in those who are fully protected (generally two doses and boosted). But once someone is sick, the exclusion remains the same (between 5 and 10 days depending on where they are, when they tested positive, and the severity and duration of their symptoms).  

Can you explain why an exclusion is extended to 10 days if an employee tests positive “toward the end” of their initial 5 day exclusion?

One of our most recent Exclusion Chart updates extends to 10 days if a person tests positive "toward the end" of their 5-day exclusion (on Days 3-5). This is based on the latest CDC guidance found here.  You can see a full explanation of what the CDC guidance means and why we changed our chart in our recent blog post about the change. In short, the CDC's guidance is very vague, so we operationalized it by defining "towards the end" of the 5 days as Days 3, 4, or 5. A negative test still isn’t required to come to work, but if someone does test positive again toward the end of their 5 day exclusion, they should stay out until Day 10.

Is there an easy resource that explains OSHA and CDC’s new definition if fully vaccinated?

The CDC has started using the language “up to date” on your vaccines to mean that you’ve gotten all your recommended doses, including boosters if you’re eligible. That means you’re either boosted, or recently fully vaccinated (2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna within 6 months, or 1 dose of J&J within 2 months). Another way to say this is that if you’re booster eligible, you have the booster. Both OSHA and the CDC now use “fully vaccinated” to mean you completed the primary series of their vaccine, meaning 2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna or a single dose of J&J. The CDC recently updated their website to reflect this, presumably based on feedback about the confusing wording differences between OSHA and the CDC. It’s important to note that the CDC’s isolation and quarantine guidance is based on whether someone is “up to date” on their vaccines. This is confusing language that they appear to have backed into a bit. The key thing to note is that if you’re eligible for a booster, you need to get one in order to be able to avoid quarantine after close contact with someone who has COVID.

Best Read:

8 Steps for Preparing for Future Pandemics

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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.