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The Executive Briefing - Friday, March 25

TB rates plummet, strep on the rise, BA.2 continuing to dominate

ZHH News:

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Managing Sick Employees In Today's Staffing Crisis

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COVID Recap:

  • The administration doesn’t have enough money to buy a fourth dose for all Americans, only for adults over 65 and first doses for kids under 5. (Washington Post)
  • BA.2 makes up half of cases in New York, and over one third nationwide. (NBC)
  • The CDC has a new quarantine and isolation calculator that lets people enter their info to get the date they can resume normal activities, but understanding whether they’re “up to date” on vaccinations can still make it challenging to use. (CDC)
  • There’s growing evidence that vaccines protect against long COVID. (NPR)
  • More ventilation, filtration, and humidity decreased airborne transmission of the coronavirus. (Medical News Today)
  • CO2 monitors are being considered as one way to measure how safe indoor spaces are, with lower CO2 levels meaning better ventilation. (BMJ)
  • Experts bracing for the next surge are concerned that at-home rapid tests, lower hospital admissions rates, and patchwork wastewater surveillance will all mean that it will take longer to notice when the surge is actually here. (AP)
  • Unvaccinated baseball players won’t be able to play against the Toronto Blue Jays, and won’t be paid for games missed because of their vaccination status. (WSJ)
  • Australia and El Salvador approved fourth doses for adults, as did Germany for those over 70 and with preexisting health conditions. (NY Times)

Today’s Health News:

  • Tuberculosis diagnoses fell 20% in 2020 and stayed 13% lower last year, which may be partly due to the fact that COVID precautions help prevent TB, too. It’s also likely due to delayed medical care and missed diagnoses due to similarities in symptoms between TB and COVID. (CDC)
  • Telehealth rules have been extended for five more months, allowing more visits to be conducted via telehealth (including audio-only).  (MedPage Today)
  • Food shortages due to the invasion of Ukraine are expected to contribute to food insecurity worldwide. (Reuters)
  • Some major restaurant chains are committing to removing PFAs (“forever chemicals”) from food packaging. (Washington Post)

Best Questions:

Are there a lot of people getting COVID a second time in a relatively short time (like the President’s Press Secretary)?

Unfortunately yes, especially with Omicron. We’ve started to see a large number of people with reinfection within a 6 months time frame, and expect that this will continue to rise as people’s booster doses continue to wane, and as BA.2, which is even more infectious than the first version of Omicron, continues to spread. The good news is that reinfections tend to be less severe, especially in those who are vaccinated.

Do we still need to exclude unvaccinated people after close contact?

Unfortunately, yes. Anyone who is unvaccinated who’s had prolonged close contact with someone sick (within 6ft for 15 or more minutes) should stay home for 5 full days, and should ideally test between days 3-5 before returning to work. The only exception is anyone who has had confirmed COVID in the past 90 days, who doesn’t need to stay home, but should wear a mask for a full 5 days while working and monitor for symptoms. The reality is that COVID is still here, and those with close contact who aren’t vaccinated are unfortunately very likely to get sick. It’s important that we keep them home - even if we’re over this virus, it’s not done with us.

We’ve had employees with strep throat who aren’t being tested for COVID. How should we handle them?

We’re seeing more strep throat and other non-COVID illnesses. If someone has an alternative diagnosis and is being treated for it by a doctor, and they’re at least 24 hours symptom free, we generally believe it’s safe for them to go to work. If they say they have strep, but haven’t been tested, that’s another story entirely. In those cases, if they have multiple COVID-like symptoms, we’d recommend keeping them out for five days from their symptom start. But for those who have been seen by a medical professional and are being treated for another illness, they can return once they’re symptom free for a day.

What does the latest info about ventilation mean for us?

The latest studies about ventilation show that air circulation, filtration, and higher humidity all help to decrease the amount of viral particles in the air. Humidity is the surprising factor in this, and while it’s not necessarily something most businesses need to consider for retrofitting just yet, it’s certainly an interesting thing to consider as you build new spaces. Keeping an eye on the latest science about filter systems, ventilation, and humidity control is an easy way building operators can take tangible measures to reduce transmission in their space. And in good news for restaurant operators, most industrial kitchens already have relatively higher humidity and excellent ventilation.

Best Read:

America Is About to Test How Long 'Normal' Can Hold - 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.