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The Executive Briefing - Friday, January 27th

Is this winter going ok?


  • Two new studies paint encouraging pictures for the effectiveness of the bivalent vaccine. (Stat News)
  • Long COVID is keeping people out of work for more than six months, and nearly one-third of all workers’ comp claims in New York State cite long COVID. (NY Times)
  • COVID cost employers upwards of $213 billion, according to a new report. (SHRM)
  • The American Heart Association is reporting the largest jumps in cardiovascular deaths in 2020 (the first year of COVID) since 2003. (SciTech Daily)
  • Many people are experiencing elevated cholesterol levels in the year after having COVID. (NBC News)
  • More than half the patients and many staff at a nursing home on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts tested positive for the XBB sub-variant this week. (MV Times)
  • The CDC has done a major refresh to its COVID testing locator - which helps anyone who has symptoms or close contact exposure locate free nearby COVID-19 testing. (CDC)
  • Home COVID tests, which now make up 80% of all COVID testing, lead to under-counting of positive test results. According to the American Medical Association, up to 18% of all home tests were positive during their study period and likely not reported. (CIDRAP)

Public Health News:

  • Bird flu has infected a mink farm in northern Spain, a major concern for epidemiologists that the H5N1 bird flu could be making the jump to mammals, potentially leading to the next human pandemic. (Science)
  • The FDA is proposing new guidance that calls for limiting lead in all processed foods intended for babies and children less than two years old. (NPR)
  • New York State is expanding its wastewater surveillance system and will be testing for norovirus, Hep A, and flu, among other potential pathogens. This was prompted by the recent Polio case in New York. (CIDRAP)
  • A study published this week found that ants can smell and detect human cancer cells. (Washington Post)
  • The CDC is reporting ongoing antibiotic-resistant Salmonella enterica in pork from 2009-2018 (the latest year data is available). (CDC)
  • The FDA has cleared the way for gay and bisexual men to donate blood. (NPR)
  • A new test can show Alzheimer’s up to 3 or more years earlier. (Neuroscience News)

Mental Health News:

  • A recent study by Pew Research Center shows that mothers feel more stressed and worried than fathers do. (Washington Post)
  • Patients awaiting admission for long-term psychiatric care are waiting months in Massachusetts. (Axios)
  • Psychedelics used to treat depression are proving to be incredibly effective, significantly reducing reported symptoms in just one week. (MedPage Today)
  • 8% of Americans are using medications to get to sleep. (CDC)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Are at-home rapid tests still working well?

For the most part, yes - the new XBB.1.5 variant isn’t tripping up at-home tests any more than previous variants, which is great news! But it’s still common for people to test negative on an at-home test on their first day or two of symptoms and eventually test positive on their second or third day of feeling sick. That’s why it’s important to stay home if you’re sick, even if you test negative at first. Here’s a good article from this week’s NY Times on this subject. NY Times: Do rapid tests still work?

How long does COVID immunity last now?

Being vaccinated or previously infected does lower your chances of getting COVID at all, but not by very much and not for long, especially against the Omicron sub-variants. But whether your immunity stems from infection or vaccination - or better yet, both - you’re much less likely to get severely ill or die in the 12 months after you get the shot or get infected with the virus. Those who have the combo of both natural and vaccine-derived immunity have the lowest chances of getting seriously ill or dying. The CDC has removed the 90 immunity window from its websites.

An employee called saying they have E.coli, but they don’t have GI symptoms. Is that normal?

There are many types of E.coli bacteria, most of which are harmless. Some, when found in the urinary tract, can cause a UTI - in fact, E.coli is the most common bacteria that causes them. A few types of E.coli can cause diarrhea, and those are the kind we're worried about in food service (these are known as diarrheagenic E.coli). If an employee reports that they have E.coli, it’s important to ask about their symptoms. We’re concerned about GI symptoms (vomiting or diarrhea) and positive E.coli tests from stool samples. If the employee has UTI symptoms and only did a urine test, it’s almost certainly not the kind of E.coli restaurants need to worry about since it doesn’t pose any risk of spreading foodborne illness. In very rare circumstances, someone who was exposed to E.coli can test positive on a stool sample without any symptoms - if that’s the case, there would be a reason the employee got tested, like someone at home has symptoms and tested positive.

We have two employees with head lice. What should we do?

Send those employees home until they get treatment (which is available over the counter). Once they’ve treated it, they can return. You should encourage them to dry clean their clothing, clean their brushes and combs in hot water, and vacuum their furniture. You should also encourage any employees who are close friends or family members to get checked, too. Next, wash any aprons, hair nets, and other reusable items the employees wore or handled with hot water (at least 130°F).

Best Read:

Wait, Is This Winter Going … Okay? | The Atlantic

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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.