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The Executive Briefing - Friday, July 29th

Monkeypox tests, reporting & privacy

ZHH News:

Wednesday, August 3rd at 3pm ET


Join us for a 30 minute flash briefing to discuss what employers need to know about monkeypox. We’ll cover what steps you need to take to keep the impact on your business to a minimum. Register here.

COVID News:

  • School mask mandates are returning as variant-fueled cases rise. (Washington Post)
  • Less than half of kids and teens going back to school next month are fully vaccinated, and only one in ten are boosted. (CNN)
  • Scientists are pushing for a “universal” COVID vaccine for boosters, rather than targeting BA.5 when it may mutate again before the doses are ready. (Fortune)
  • Millions of people are still without smell after COVID. (NBC)
  • Summer boosters for those under 50 are being shelved in favor of updated fall boosters targeted at the BA.5 variant. (NPR)

Public Health News:

  • Monkeypox is now a nationally notifiable condition, meaning that labs must report a positive test to the CDC within 24 hours. (Politico)
  • New York and San Francisco declared monkeypox emergencies, while HHS has not yet decided. (Washington Post)
  • There’s a push to rename monkeypox to fight growing stigma, and given the racist history of terms like this used to describe communities of color. (CIDRAP)
  • The US can conduct 60-80,000 monkeypox tests per week. That’s up from just 6,000 per week a few months ago, but still low for the severity of this outbreak. (Reuters)
  • A potentially deadly bacteria that causes melioidosis has been found in US soil in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. It was previously thought to be found only in Asia and Australia, but is now endemic to the US, possibly due to climate change. (NY Times)
  • There’s an unexplained cluster of parechovirus infections in newborns in Tennessee. (NBC)
  • Two restaurants in Whistler, Canada have notified customers of Hep A exposure. (CBC)

Mental Health News:

  • Nearly one in four LGBTQ+ youth who tried suicide in 2021 reported high levels of trauma. (Axios)
  • A new study suggests that depression is not caused by low serotonin levels, as was previously believed. It turns out that we don’t really know how antidepressants work. (CBS)
  • The US mental health hotline service is expanding with 988, but rural areas still face a care shortage. (KHN)

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 monkeypox testing look like? How hard is it to get?

Monkeypox testing is a real doozy. First, tests are hard to come by. Our own order of test kits was cut by 90% even after being confirmed, and we’re hearing of lots of similar issues. Your employees who have symptoms are waiting up to a week or more to get tested, and sometimes another week or more for results. It’s part of why we always check to ensure that an alleged monkeypox is actually lab-confirmed, since it’s a common miscommunication to think that being tested for monkeypox is the same thing as testing positive (it’s not!). Some people are testing positive for chickenpox or sexually transmitted infections that aren’t monkeypox after being tested, so the results are important. The test itself requires swabbing a lesion, which can be a challenge as some people are presenting with internal lesions only, or don’t develop clear lesions for a while - for many, it may look like a simple rash or pimple until the disease progresses.

How should we balance employee privacy with contact tracing for monkeypox?

First, an employee with monkeypox should stay home until they provide a doctor’s note clearing them to work. But their privacy should be protected - managers shouldn’t discuss with other employees why they’re out of work. When possible, we recommend having a higher-level manager handle this situation (like someone from your HR or Food Safety teams). If the employee lives with or is romantically involved with any coworkers, they should be excluded from work for 14 days from their most recent exposure. Again, it’s important not to identify the sick employee when excluding the close contacts. If the sick person worked recently, you should sanitize the workspace, and handle any linens (including clothing, dish towels, etc.) carefully with gloves and a mask, careful not to shake the virus out. Other than linens, standard COVID disinfection protocols should be just fine. Other employees who don’t live with or have sex with that person likely won’t need to be excluded - it requires very close physical contact with someone and workplace transmission isn’t common. Employees may speculate or guess at what’s going on, but with both COVID and monkeypox, you don’t need to - and shouldn’t - reveal anything about another employee’s medical status.

Should I take Paxlovid if I have COVID?

You should talk with your doctor or a healthcare professional about whether Paxlovid is right for you. Generally, it’s recommended for people who are high-risk – like those over 65 and those who have serious health conditions like cancer, obesity, heart disease, asthma, or diabetes. There are a number of drugs that interact poorly with Paxlovid, including some common heart, psychiatric,and diabetes medications, so you should always check with a doctor to make sure it works well with anything else you take. Paxlovid is generally not recommended for low or standard-risk people, since there’s little to no benefit and there are some possible side effects, including a metallic taste in your mouth and the risk of a rebound.

If I’m eligible for the monkeypox vaccine but can only get one dose, should I do it?

If you’re eligible in your area for a monkeypox vaccine, there’s a chance that your local health department is giving out first dose appointments only. Some hard-hit cities like New York have made the decision to give out most of their available vaccine as first doses, with the expectation that they’ll get more soon to give out the second dose, though the date might be slightly farther out than the official recommendation. If your health department has chosen to do this, and you’re eligible for the shot, it’s a good idea to go get it. They’re generally reserving a second dose for the highest risk people - like those whose partners have monkeypox symptoms. Our recommendation is to get vaccinated if you’re in the eligibility group - which generally includes people who have sex with men in the LGBTQ+ community who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past two weeks, but can vary by locality.

Best Read:

Propublica:  How Polio Crept Back into the US



Looking ahead:

Is a 'twindemic' headed our way and what can you do to prepare?

Experts are warning that a 'twindemic' of COVID and the flu might finally be upon us this coming fall. So far, we in the US have been able to avoid this, but with flu cases already rising in July, and COVID cases surging again, health experts are worried we will be following in Australia and New Zealand's footsteps straight to a twindemic.

The key is simple: make sure no employee works sick.

If you don't have an employee health monitoring program, now is a great time to start. And you can help prevent a 'twindemic' from hitting your business hard by providing a flu shot and/or COVID booster program for your employees. Keeping employees (and customers!) healthy is not just good practice, it protects your bottom line.

Learn more about starting a program by scheduling a 15 minute chat with us here.

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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.