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The Executive Briefing - Friday, January 28th

The future of the OSHA ETS + more

COVID Recap:

  • The world passed a huge milestone this week with more than 10 billion doses of COVID vaccines administered. (NY Times)
  • An increasing number of large companies are implementing their own vaccine mandates. (NBC News)
  • Omicron now makes up more than 99.9% of new cases. (Fox News)
  • To give you a sense for how bad January has been - California just hit 8 million total COVID cases. 2.5 million of those were just this month (which isn’t over yet…). (LA Times)
  • Omicron will likely be slower to recede in this country than some others, according to experts at Johns Hopkins based on how high the case counts remain. (MedPage Today)
  • More than 1 million children were diagnosed with COVID last week. (Fox News)
  • People who are immunocompromised or have disabilities are pushing back against the “everyone will get COVID eventually” mentality, pointing out it’s deadly toll. (KQED)
  • The healthcare vaccination mandate kicked in about 25 states yesterday, requiring unvaccinated healthcare workers to get their first doses by yesterday’s deadline. (AP)
  • Healthy gut bacteria may be what prevents long COVID, according to research done on hospitalized COVID patients in Hong Kong. (Reuters)
  • Studies of “chemo brain” may also help scientists understand long COVID. (STAT)
  • Vaccinated parents provide direct COVID protection to their unvaccinated children, according to a new study conducted in Israel. (USA Today)

Today’s Health News:

  • Philips expanded its recall of respirators by more than 1 million, after additional ventilators were identified that contained the wrong polyurethane used by a supplier - leading to even greater national shortage of ventilators at a critical time. (Reuters)
  • Moderna has started clinical trials on an mRNA vaccine for HIV. (ABC)


Best Questions:

Does Omicron spread more easily on surfaces and outdoors?

Omicron doesn’t appear to spread outdoors very much, which is good news. Like previous variants, Omicron doesn’t spread very easily outdoors because of the ventilation. Outdoors is still the safest place to be. There are some new studies showing that the Omicron variant does live longer on surfaces, like plastic and skin, and tends to stay stable for longer, which may explain how it spread so quickly. It’s a good reminder that handwashing is still as important as ever!

If COVID becomes endemic, what does that mean?

First, it’s important to note that “endemic” doesn’t mean that COVID will be over. It just means that it will be a part of life - including people getting sick and dying. The difference will be that there will not be major surges, with any variations in case rates being within the capacity of our healthcare system to manage. The flu is endemic, but millions of Americans get it each year and tens of thousands die from it. In reality, COVID becoming endemic is the most likely outcome here given that we’re far past the point of containing it through contact tracing or mass vaccination. Our best hope is that it becomes less transmissible and less severe over time, and that more people get vaccinated.

How protected are we, really, after an Omicron infection?

We’ve been talking about the higher incidences of reinfection that we’re seeing, and with nearly 25% of ALL infections in the US having taken place since Christmas, there are millions of people who are now within the 90-day window that we’ve heard about after infection. But the reality is that your protection level after an Omicron infection is unclear. While it does provide an antibody boost, the length of that boost is unclear. Without a doubt, the more consistent and better option for protection is vaccination - so even if you’ve recently had Omicron we highly recommend getting up to date on your vaccination - meaning getting your first two doses, or if you’re eligible, your booster dose.

What types of tests are acceptable for early return to work  (less than ten days) in California?

The most recent version of the CalOSHA ETS that went into effect on January 14th uses the same requirements as the federal OSHA ETS did, namely that the test can’t be both self-administered and self-read. Their FAQ clarifies that this can be any lab result, rapid test result from a point of care provider (like a pharmacy) or an at-home test with a digital reading that shows the date and time stamp of the test. At-home tests that were both self-administered and self-read aren’t accepted under the current California guidance.

We’re hearing that OSHA withdrew the ETS but is preparing to issue similar final rules, bypassing the entire ETS process.  Is that what you’re hearing?

Yes.  Definitely worth a discussion with your legal counsel but what we’re hearing is that they published draft rules in the Federal Register, the comment period has ended and final rules are being prepared which take into account the many comments received and the feedback from SCOTUS.  Rumors have it that the new rules will be targeted to specific high risk industries that would likely include restaurants and foodservice providers.


Best Read:

NY Times:  Charting an Omicron Infection



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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.