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The Executive Briefing - Friday, November 12th

Test prices, availability, exemptions and more

COVID Recap:

  • Pfizer boosters may be available for everyone 18+ well before the winter holidays. (NY Times)
  • Colorado is in crisis again, with a new wave of COVID cases statewide. They just authorized boosters for everyone 18+ in the state to help combat it. (Denver Post)
  • California also joined CO as the second state to authorize boosters for all adults, saying no adult should be denied a booster dose as cases are rising. (LA Times)
  • France, Germany and other European countries are experiencing a 5th wave with surging COVID cases. (Reuters)
  • Meanwhile, Germany is offering free weekly COVID tests to all adults once again. They paused the program about a month ago, but are reinstating after seeing a surge in cases. (NY Times)
  • Some experts think at-home COVID tests will be in short supply at Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. (The Atlantic)
  • More than 100,000 kids per week have tested positive for COVID over the past 13 weeks. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Of nearly 29,000 Texans who died of COVID, 85% were unvaccinated, and 7% were only partially vaccinated. (Texas Tribune)
  • New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is the latest employer to say they will deny death benefits to unvaccinated employees. (Daily Voice)
  • The USPS says delivery times will slow if the Federal worker vaccine mandate goes through at peak gift season, saying they expect absenteeism. (Reuters)
  • California is investigating doctors who give suspicious medical exemptions to help parents get their kids out of CA’s school vaccine mandate. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A judge overturned the TX ban on school mask mandates, saying it violates the rights of students with disabilities. (NY Times)

Today’s Health News:

  • Measles might be the next big health issue for America’s kids, as a huge number of children have missed their measles vaccinations. (CDC)
  • In an astonishing feat, a new drug reversed spinal cord injuries. (Science Alert)
  • An exciting new study found that blood pressure drugs may prevent some type 2 diabetes. (The Guardian)

Best Questions

Are you seeing testing prices come down?

It’s hard to say. Our clients are seeing volume pricing ranging from $7 to $15 per test.  Some are as high as $21 per test in lower volumes.  There are BD Veritor tests still available on Amazon for $23.95 for a two-pack.  Walgreens reports to have pallet pricing but limited supply.  And it seems that Cintas may have acquired most of the supply of the newly approved ACON test to sell to their clients. Whether prices are down for the quantity that employers will actually need to offer weekly testing to their employees remains to be seen.

How are other employers handling COVID testing for off-site workers who work at client sites or in the field?

While remote employees who work from home are excluded from the ETS weekly testing requirements for unvaccinated employees, employees who travel to job sites or client locations are not exempt.  Supervised testing can present challenges.

Supervised testing can present challenges, but there are several options out there that might work for you (and more appearing every day). One (costlier) option is an at-home test, completed using a telemed provider via video conference.  We’ve used Abbott tests with either E-med or Navica successfully. Everlywell provides a similar service. An intermediate option is the BD Veritor at-home test which has an app, so you can have the test proctored but have the result documented electronically. They are currently available (in limited supply) on Amazon.  Your counsel will need to provide additional guidance but some early interpretation of the ETS is that other employees or even a client’s employee health and safety rep may be able to proctor the test for your employee, though again, we haven’t heard clear guidance on this yet. Last, but not least, the major labs (LabCorp, Quest) and occupational medicine groups (Concentra, Nova, etc.) offer scheduled rapid testing. These require the employee visiting the clinic weekly – which is time consuming and a visit charge usually applies. We expect to see the menu of solutions expanding over the next few weeks.

What’s the most important thing we can be doing right now to prepare for the OSHA ETA?

The answer is simple: blast top-down messaging across your organization using every channel possible to authentically and enthusiastically support vaccination.  Show your CEO, your regional managers, your spokesperson, celebrities your employees admire, even your mascot getting vaccinated. Celebrate locations with high vaccination rates, and use the Dec. 5th deadline to create a sense of urgency around getting the shot.

Does the ZHH / Zedic Vaccine and Testing Tracking system automatically waive the weekly testing requirement for an unvaccinated employee who tests positive? And for how long?

Yes. The new OSHA ETS says that unvaccinated people who test positive for COVID are exempt from weekly testing for 90 days from the date of their first positive test result. ZHH & Zedic’s Vaccination & Testing Tracking system will automatically exempt any employee who uploads a COVID positive test, for 90 days from the date they were tested. After 90 days, they’ll be back on the weekly testing schedule - at least until they (hopefully) get vaccinated.

If an unvaccinated employee who is testing weekly gets vaccinated, do they drop off the ZHH/Zedic Vaccine and Testing Tracking dashboard?

As soon as an employee inputs their vaccination information showing that they’re fully vaccinated, they’ll be marked as such in the ZHH/Zedic dashboard. If you have a dashboard configured just to show you unvaccinated employees who require weekly testing, they’ll be removed from that dashboard as soon as they’re two weeks out from their final dose.

Best Read:

New Biden Vaccine Rules Don’t Allow Self-Administered, Self-Reported Covid-19 Tests

Best Listen:

The science behind booster shots and rapid antigen testing

Best Laugh:

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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.