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The Executive Briefing - Friday, January 7th

The Supreme Court heard arguments today for the OSHA vaccine or test mandate. More to come on that!

 ⚡️ ZHH News ⚡️ 

Didn’t get a chance to join our Flash Briefing yesterday? We covered Omicron, shorter isolation times, the definition of “fully vaccinated,” the OSHA ruling, and more! Thanks to Michelle Harden from Messner Reeves for joining me to talk about the legal questions!

Watch the recording here!

COVID Recap:

  • The Supreme Court took center stage while more than 600,000 people tested positive today. They haven’t yet ruled on the vaccine or test mandate, but are expected to do so shortly. (CNN)
  • A new study shows what many of us know first hand - that rapid antigen tests aren’t very good at identifying Omicron in the first few days. (STAT)
  • Both Pfizer and Moderna booster shots are now FDA authorized after just 5 months. (FDA)
  • WV will ask federal officials for permission to start offering a 4th dose of vaccine to residents. (AP)
  • The number of childhood hospitalizations is still on the rise. (NY Times)
  • The Society for HR Management advises employers with mandatory vaccination policies to terminate unvaccinated employees.  (SHRM)
  • Some retailers are raising the price of rapid testing kits, after a deal with the White House to sell them for just $14 has expired. (WSJ)
  • Macy’s is cutting back store hours in response to short staffing from sick employees. The NYC subway system is facing delays after over 20% of subway drivers were out sick this week. (CNBC,  Bloomberg) 
  • CalOSHA has updated their COVID guidance and extended their existing ETS. (JDSupra)
  • The CDC issued written clarification on earlier testing after COVID guidance which still leaves questions about it. (CDC)
  • A recent study  focused on breakthrough infections showed something unexpected - the optimal time between the first and second doses of mRNA vaccines optimally may be 4 months and not 28 days. (Science)
  • Data now supports that someone's period may be temporarily delayed after COVID vaccination - but experts say you should still get one!. (NPR)
  • The Federal government doubled its order of Pfizer’s new COVID antiviral. An estimated 10 million doses will be delivered by June.  (CNBC)
  • More than a million COVID tests expired in a Florida warehouse last December which weren’t distributed. (Business Insider)
  • The White House and USPS are finalizing a plan to ship test kits to US Households. (Washington Post)

Today’s Health News:

  • Another patron from the Famous Anthony’s Hepatitis A outbreak in Roanoke, VA has died. (Roanoke Times)
  • Hedgehogs may have had and transmitted MRSA long before we’d ever heard of MRSA. (The Guardian)
  • The DOT published random drug testing rates for 2022, with few changes from 2020. (DOT)
  • Five people died in the US this year from rabies (more than usual), three of them after contact with bats. (CDC)

Best Questions:

Is there a waiting period after a booster dose before being considered “up to date”?

The CDC hasn’t clarified this, but the way we read it, as soon as someone has a booster shot, they’re considered “up to date” on their vaccinations, and therefore don’t need to be excluded from that point forward if they’re exposed to someone sick (as long as they have no symptoms themselves.) 

If someone is exposed, can they get a booster and return to works sooner? 

Unfortunately, someone is only exempt from exclusion for close contact if they’re boosted before the exposure. If someone has already been exposed, they’ll need to stay out for at least 5 days after that exposure before they can get the booster themselves. That’s partly to protect those who work at vaccination sites, but also because there’s not enough evidence that a booster after infection will help quickly enough to prevent you from being infected. So, get boosted as soon as you’re eligible (after 5 months for Pfizer/Moderna, and after 2 months for J&J) to avoid quarantine in the future! 

Are other clients seeing employees still sick after 5 days, and some much longer?

Yes! All of our clients and employers across the US are seeing that employees are still very sick after 5 days, leading to a huge number of extensions that make staffing even more difficult for managers. We’re seeing this over and over again. It’s a double edged sword - lots of asymptomatic people are ready to return quickly, and they’re getting right back to work. But nearly as many people are still sick after 5 days, and some are even still sick after 10. We’ll continue to monitor this situation and evolving CDC, state, and local guidelines to make the best recommendations - in the meantime, managers will need to be prepared for lots of 3-day extensions!

Should we still be using rapid tests if they’re not detecting early Omicron infection?

Even though they miss more early infections than PCR tests, they are still very useful for catching some infections. This just underscores the importance of ensuring that people who aren’t up to date on their vaccinations stay home after exposure, and that EVERYONE stays home when they’re experiencing symptoms, even if they test negative. One thing employers can consider is using two rapid tests 24 hours apart for more accurate results. 

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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.