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The Executive Briefing - Friday, May 13

Paxlovid 101: How to find it, rebounding, & more

COVID & Health News:

  • “We must not grow numb to this sorrow” said President Biden in a speech commemorating one million COVID deaths. (CBS)
  • European Union countries will no longer have a mask mandate for air travel starting next week. (BBC)
  • The U.S. is still lagging far behind in terms of getting booster doses to seniors, a highly vulnerable group. (NBC)
  • Researchers are trying to understand if long COVID may be due to virus “ghosts,” or reservoirs of viral fragments that don’t go away. (Nature)
  • Severe COVID raises the risk for psychiatric disorders significantly, including dementia, psychosis, anxiety and bipolar disorders. (CIDRAP)
  • The number of Americans who say they won’t get a COVID shot hasn’t budged in a year. (NPR)
  • The chance of kids spreading COVID in their households is rising with new variants, where in the past it made up a small percentage of transmission. (CIDRAP)
  • Mix-and-match mRNA vaccines may provide more protection against Omicron and its sub-variants. (CIDRAP)
  • The meat industry used baseless claims of a shortage to keep factories open amid massive outbreaks, leading to the deaths of over 250 workers. (Washington Post)
  • Some experts feel Paxlovid, the antiviral, might help with long COVID, but there haven’t been any studies to find out. (The Atlantic)
  • 55% of hospitalized COVID patients still had symptoms 2 years later. (MedPage Today)
  • Skippack Rapid Tests were recalled this week after they were distributed in NY, TX, FL and three other states, despite that they were never approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. (NBC)
  • Ticks are spreading throughout the US and bringing new diseases with them. (WIRED)
  • The avian flu has infected a wild fox in Minnesota. It’s now been found in mammals in the US, Europe, and Japan and in two humans, including one person in Colorado, raising concerns about the potential for spread in humans. (CIDRAP)

Mental Health News:

May is Mental Health Awareness month. We’re proud to join the movement to bring more awareness to mental health issues that are facing your employees and communities.

  • The CDC reported a record-breaking number of overdose deaths last year. (CDC)
  • A nationwide shortage of baby formula is a major stressor for new parents. (NPR)
  • A new study shows that a week off of social media helps mental health. (US News)
  • Mental health days are growing in popularity, but there’s a way to get more out of your day off by planning ahead, going outdoors, and savoring time alone. (WSJ)

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:

I just tested positive and am having a hard time finding antiviral pills. What should I do?

We’re hearing more and more reports of how challenging it can be to get access to COVID antiviral pills. First, you need a positive test and to meet the criteria for being higher risk for severe disease, which includes many common conditions. Next, you need a prescription, which can be tricky to get if you don’t have a primary care provider. If you do have a primary care doctor, that’s your best bet and should be your first call. If not, there are some test to treat locations nationwide that can get you the pills after a short consultation with a healthcare provider. These aren’t always in-network, and only some of them are the federally-funded low-cost options for the uninsured. If you don’t have one in your area, telemedicine is your next best option. But once you get a prescription from your doctor or telehealth provider, actually filling the prescription can also be a challenge. We’ve heard of people driving 50+ miles to the closest in-stock pharmacy. To make matters more complicated, you need to start the pills within 5 days of symptom onset, which can take some perseverance, especially if you’re not feeling well. Still, if you have COVID and have a common risk factor, the COVID pills can help immensely - they mean you’re much, much less likely to need to go to the hospital or to die from COVID, and that you’ll get better more quickly.

I’ve heard that Paxlovid can cause a “rebound” illness, where you get sick again after you stop taking it. What’s happening?

As more and more people are taking Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral oral pills, there are reports of people ‘rebounding,’ or getting better and then getting sick again shortly after finishing the 5-day course of pills. First, it’s worth mentioning that it’s a very small percentage of people who experience this; Pfizer says its about 1 in 3000, though it was closer to 2% in the clinical trial. It’s also important to say that even those who don’t take the pill can experience this rebound, where they start to feel better and then get worse again, often in the second week. The second bout of illness doesn’t affect the fact that Paxlovid still prevents the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths, so while it’s an interesting thing for scientists and doctors to keep an eye on, and for patients to be aware of, it doesn’t change whether you should consider taking Paxlovid if you get COVID.

We have an employee with long COVID symptoms. What resources can we share to support them?

You’re not even close to being alone, unfortunately, as nearly 23 million people in the US have some long COVID symptoms. It can take a while for COVID symptoms to resolve, and the definition of what qualifies as long COVID is still murky. If it’s been three months and your employee is still having symptoms, you can help them find a long COVID clinic. We like this list of clinics from Survivor Corps, which also has other good resources that you can share, like a collaborative patient and caregiver workbook from the University of Michigan. We also recommend this list of support groups and mental health resources from the Long COVID Alliance.

What’s happening with this mystery hepatitis in kids?

This mystery hepatitis outbreak that was first identified in the UK has now been found worldwide, with over 109 cases in the U.S. All are in young kids, and a large percentage of those kids have been found to have an adenovirus, which is a common cold virus. Doctors are still investigating what’s causing them exactly, and it’s all in the early stages with more questions than answers. It’s still unclear if cases are actually rising or if doctors are just more aware of them now, but they’re still very rare. The only thing parents really need to know is to be aware of the most common symptoms of hepatitis, like dark cola-colored urine, light-colored stools, and yellowing of the eyes or skin. Any child with those symptoms should be taken for immediate medical attention, as hepatitis can be very serious, with some of these cases resulting in liver transplants and a few, sadly, in death.

Best Read:

The 'five pandemics' driving 1 million US Covid deaths - STAT

Best Laugh:

On that note: We’ll be off next week! We’re taking a break to rest, reset, and come back the week of the 23rd ready to hit the ground running again. We promise not to post too many pictures from our vacation…

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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.