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The Executive Briefing - Friday, November 19th

Boosters for all, plus the winter surge is here ❄️

COVID Recap:

  • First, and most importantly this week, cases are on the rise again before the holidays. Many experts think we’re at the start of a winter surge. (NPR)
  • Europe’s COVID surge continues, with Austria mandating vaccination and entering a nationwide lockdown next week as infections hit record numbers there. (AP)
  • A CDC panel recommended booster shots of both Pfizer and Moderna for all adults this week after the FDA issued an emergency use authorization, paving the way for all adults to get boosters as early as this weekend. (MedPage Today)
  • CT Gov. Ted Lamont said this week that “fully vaccinated means getting a booster” as he urged CT residents to get their boosters doses before the holidays. The CDC has not changed the definition of fully vaccinated (2 doses of Pfizer or Moderna, 1 dose of J&J). (NBC)
  • Double infections of flu and COVID are much more common than we first thought - and may be worse this year with more flu circulating. (The Atlantic)
  • Strain on hospital ICUs leads can lead to thousands more deaths over a 2 week period. (MMWR)
  • Pfizer applied for FDA authorization of it’s COVID pill, which is likely to be fast-tracked. (CNBC)
  • The first known COVID case was likely a vendor in a market in Wuhan, according to a new report. (NYT)
  • South Korea is looking to cut the booster interval to 4 months after a spike in cases among vulnerable populations. (Reuters)
  • California delayed revising its COVID workplace guidelines pending the outcome of the federal legal challenges to the OSHA emergency temporary standard. (SF Chronicle)

Today’s Health News:

  • Deaths from drug overdoses have topped over 100,000 in a single year, tied with COVID for killing an unprecedented number of people this year - up 30% from last year. (AP)
  • Jackson, Mississippi was placed under a boil-water order after a bad batch of chemicals at a water treatment plant there. (CBS)
  • There’s another case of the monkeypox in the US, after both patients traveled to Nigeria. No other cases have been reported. (STAT)
  • Another mRNA vaccine is being used to prevent tick bites in animals. It could be a game changer for preventing Lyme disease. (Science)
  • Ann Arbor, MI became the first city in the US to require feminine hygiene products provided free of charge in public bathrooms. (USA Today)

Best Questions:

Is it just us or is everyone experiencing a significant uptick in COVID cases (and also other illnesses)?

It’s definitely not just you! There’s a major COVID surge, and outbreaks of flu, strep, and other viruses. We’re also seeing foodborne illness returning in some places. Part of it is the changing weather - more people headed inside means more transmission. Part of it is COVID fatigue - fewer people washing their hands, social distancing, and masking means the illnesses that were quiet last year, like flu, are back with a vengeance.

If a vaccinated employee has symptoms, do they need to be excluded?  Do we need to do a contact investigation?

Yes - any symptomatic person should stay home when they’re sick. And if they test positive for COVID, you definitely need to do your standard contact tracing. There are other illnesses (like strep, flu, and RSV) that are going around, so you may not need to do a full contact tracing if someone hasn’t tested positive for COVID, but once someone is confirmed COVID+, you should do a full contact tracing to exclude anyone unvaccinated that they had close contact with in the 48 hours before their symptoms started. Fully vaccinated people who have no symptoms can continue to work after a COVID exposure, but should wear a mask for 14 days. Anyone with new COVID-like symptoms should stay home for 10 days, whether they’re vaccinated or not.

If an unvaccinated employee is exposed and then decides to get vaccinated, can they return to work sooner than ten days?

Unfortunately, no. It takes two weeks after the final dose of vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated. For most people, that’s two doses of Pfizer or Moderna spaced about a month apart, plus two weeks for protection to kick in. Even if someone got the single-dose J&J vaccine, they wouldn’t be considered fully protected for 14 days, after their 10-day quarantine period is over. Plus, if they’ve been exposed, they should quarantine and not risk the health and safety of healthcare professionals and patients at the vaccination site. After their 10 days are up, they should go get that shot so they don’t have to quarantine again next time they’re exposed!

Are other clients considering vaccinate mandates?

This has been and continues to be a major topic of discussion. Many of our clients are considering vaccine mandates regardless of the outcome of the OSHA ruling as a way to get closer to “normal” operations, and to handle this new COVID surge we’re seeing. Our clients who have implemented vaccine mandates have done so with excellent advanced communication and none have experienced significant numbers of employee resignations. Moving incrementally has proven most effective - first by requiring vaccinations of regional managers, then local managers, and then everyone else.  

Best Read:  

The Upside of COVID Hygiene Theater

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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.