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The Executive Briefing - Friday, March 4

The strange reason COVID misinfo is declining online 📉

COVID Recap:

  • President Biden announced a new “Test to Treat” strategy in his State of the Union address that involves giving antivirals immediately after a positive test. (CBS)
  • Formally ending the pandemic - and the temporary policies around it - will be a headache, with billions of dollars at stake and impacts on telehealth, hospitals, and individuals . (STAT)
  • Even the “milder” Omicron variant is 40% more deadly than the seasonal flu. (Bloomberg)
  • The virus variant found in deer that spread back to at least one person has been found to be very different from other strains, raising fears of other new variants that we haven’t discovered yet hiding in other animal populations. (CNN)
  • Sen. Kaine of VA has had long COVID symptoms for almost two years, and introduced a bill to research long COVID causes and treatments. (Washington Post)
  • A new study confirms that several rapid antigen tests widely used in the US are effective at detecting the Omicron variant. Those include Abbott BinaxNow, BD Veritor, Quidel QuickVue. (NY Times)
  • The FDA declined to grant emergency use authorization to the new Ocugen vaccine, Covaxin, aimed at 2-18 year olds.  (Ocugen)
  • The Surgeon General asked big tech companies to turn over data on COVID misinformation. (NY Times)
  • A massive new study from the UK confirms a booster is needed to ward off serious illness from Omicron. (New England Journal of Medicine)
  • Black New Yorkers were hospitalized at twice the rate of white New Yorkers during the Omicron surge. (Bloomberg)
  • Here’s a wild one - COVID misinformation has declined online as social media pivots to the invasion in Ukraine. (The Guardian)

Today’s Health News:

  • The pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. (WHO)
  • A new Biden administration plan seeks to close gaps in mental health care, like forcing insurance companies to cover three mental health visits per year at no cost to patients. (AP)
  • Spending time outdoors lessened pandemic-related anxiety and depression. (CIDRAP)
  • E.coli from farm animals may be contributing to the evolution of deadly strains of E.coli in humans. (Science Daily)

Best Questions:

How much protection does wearing a mask provide when others around me are unmasked?

Even if those around you aren’t wearing their masks, you can still protect yourself and limit your own risk by wearing a mask, especially if it’s a high quality N95 or KN95. If two people are unmasked and one is sick with COVID, it can take less than 15 minutes to spread an infectious dose of COVID. Wearing a well-fitting N95 or KN95 can increase that transmission time to 2 hours or more. If the sick person wore an N95 as well, you’d suddenly see that time jump to nearly a full day. Of course, in this day and age, with mask mandates being lifted in most major cities and schools, it’s important to know that choosing to wear a good N95-type mask can reduce your risk, even if you can’t control the behaviors of others.

Are other employers requiring unvaccinated employees to remain masked even if it’s not required?

Many of our clients, and other major employers across the US, are still requiring unvaccinated employees to wear masks in the workplace, regardless of whether their local jurisdiction is requiring it any longer. In part, that’s because the recommendations are based on stats that change - like case rates and hospital capacity. For many employers, the logistics of pinning a policy like masking to a fluctuating number is too complicated. Many of our clients think that their customers and colleagues still want to see their unvaccinated employees masked for the most part, with some (vocal) exceptions. We expect that many will continue to keep their current mask policies in place as restrictions ease, to see what others do and how guests respond before adjusting those policies.

Are other employers doing regular testing of asymptomatic employees?

Some are - and it’s a good idea for preventing workplace outbreaks. Twice-weekly rapid testing has proven to catch asymptomatic infections, and some major companies have implemented this, for part or all of their workforce. Apple announced in a company-wide memo this week that it will start doing twice-weekly testing for all employees (vaccinated and unvaccinated), in advance of dropping its mask mandate. In most cases, we’re seeing people setting on twice per week rapid testing, either on site or at home before work. When positive cases are detected proactively through surveillance testing, it helps keep businesses open and employees healthy.

Are the GI symptoms we’re seeing Norovirus or just a stomach bug?

Unfortunately, we’re seeing lots and lots of gastrointestinal symptoms lately, and we have seen a number of lab-confirmed Noro cases, indicating that it’s not some other bug going around. Noro is incredibly infectious - there’s enough virus on the head of a pin to infect more than 1000 people, and nearly two thirds of Noro outbreaks from food contamination happen in restaurants. Remind your employees to wash their hands regularly, stay home when they’re sick, and clean your space thoroughly if anyone gets sick at work or in the 24 hours after they’ve worked.

We saw an E.coli alert for bagged salad. Should we be concerned?

Probably not. Though it recently made front page news, it’s because the investigation was closed and considered to be over. We do continue to see more E.coli, but the bagged salad issue is in the past, and was very limited.

Best Read:

Scientists seek to solve mystery of why some people do not catch Covid - The Guardian

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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.