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The Executive Briefing - Friday, July 15th

Losing the fight against monkeypox, plus COVID surging again


  • COVID is back on the rise, big time. Cases are up 17% (which is almost certainly a massive undercount) and hospitalizations are up nearly 20% over the past two weeks. (NY Times)
  • Mask mandates could return to LA as the virus surges there. (AP)
  • BA.5 is both more contagious and more vaccine-resistant. (NPR)
  • Experts say simple steps could have warned the public about the current BA.5 surge, calling it the ‘worst yet.’ (AP)
  • Loss of smell may be on the rise as a symptom of BA.5, after it became less common during the initial Omicron surge. (NBC)
  • A guy on Twitter decided to call BA.2.75 “Centaurus.” The crazy thing is that it worked. (SF Chronicle)
  • Low demand for young kids’ vaccine is worrying doctors. (Politico)
  • The FDA authorized Novavax, a two-dose vaccine that should be available within a few weeks as a fourth option in the US . (NBC)

Public Health News:

  • Nearly 800,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine will be available in the US by August, but in the meantime, there is still far more demand than doses available. (Washington Post)
  • Salmonella tied to backyard poultry is on the rise, with 572 cases in 48 states. (CIDRAP)
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia kills patients every day - but it can be prevented by tooth brushing. (KHN)
  • Pharmacists have been warned by the government that they cannot deny abortion medication when it’s been prescribed. (NPR)
  • 25 million kids missed routine childhood vaccinations due to the pandemic. (AP)

Mental Health News:

  • The national suicide hotline switches over to the simple 988 number tomorrow. Questions still remain about how ready states are to handle the expected surge, even as many advocates celebrate it as a much-needed support. (Washington Post)
  • The transition from high school to college can be taxing for those struggling with mental health issues. Taking proactive steps can help. (US News)
  • Teenagers are gambling as online sports betting grows, and states are working to figure out how to protect them. (Pew)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

What does the July 12 OSHA update mean for employers?

OSHA revised its guidelines earlier this week, stating that employers can continue to test employees for COVID as long as they can show that their testing is job-related and a business necessity, according to Fisher Phillips. Employers will individually need to decide whether both their own situation and the local and national pandemic situation justify COVID testing to prevent workplace transmission. They’ve also confirmed that COVID symptom screening questionnaires are still broadly permitted, that employers can ask for a doctor's note to return someone to work after being out sick, and that you can’t require antibody testing to re-enter the workplace. As always, we recommend that you discuss with your legal counsel before making any policy changes.

Should I get a booster of Novavax now that it’s authorized?

It’s actually not authorized as a booster just yet. It was only authorized by the FDA for emergency use as a two-dose initial series, with each dose given three weeks apart. The company will apply for booster authorization soon, but for now, that option isn’t on the table. If it does get the thumbs up for use as a booster, though, it might be a popular option because people experienced fewer side effects, including sore arms, in the Novavax trials.

An employee called saying they think a coworker has monkeypox. What should we do?

Speculation is never a good idea, especially about someone else’s medical status. You can’t talk to an employee about another person’s health situation, so start by saying as much. If someone calls out sick, or shows up to work with symptoms, their manager can (and should) discuss it with them directly.

My employee who was being tested for monkeypox actually has chicken pox.  What do I need to do?

If an employee has chicken pox, exclude family members or romantic partners until they can share a note saying they’ve either had chicken pox or the vaccine. Sanitize any surfaces the employee touched if they worked in the last few days. Notify any pregnant employees who may have been exposed so they can reach out to their doctors for guidance, but be sure not to name the sick employee to protect their privacy. The sick employee must stay out until they have a doctor’s note clearing them to work and until any sores are completely crusted over. For ZHH and Zedic clients, you can also check out the Chicken Pox Q&A and Action Plan in the app.

Best Read:

The US May Be Losing the Fight Against Monkeypox, Scientists Say - The New York Times

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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.