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The Executive Briefing - Friday, November 4th

How to prep for the holidays as RSV explodes

ZHH News:

Wednesday, November 9th at 3pm ET

Did you know that 81% of workers reported that they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future?

Join us for a discussion on the current mental health crisis, specifically workplace mental health, with Roslyn Stone, MPH, CEO of Zero Hour Health, Lori Govar, MSW, an employee behavioral health expert, and Liz Colizza, LPC, the Director of Research and Programs at Talkspace.

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  • A new bathroom-centric study shows that specific individual superspreaders may be shedding an enormous amount of the COVID virus from their GI tract for a prolonged period. (MedRxiv)
  • Pfizer-BioNTech has started a clinical trial for a combo flu and COVID vaccine. (Pfizer)
  • Kids, especially teen girls, are getting long COVID, too. (National Geographic)
  • Pfizer says their new booster offers “substantially” better protection for older adults against the currently circulating Omicron variants. (CNN)
  • COVID likely spread via airflow between rooms and floors in a quarantine hotel. (CIDRAP)

Public Health & MPX News:

  • MPX can be infectious up to four days before symptoms start, expanding the definition of a close contact. This may help explain its explosive spread earlier this year. (Reuters)
  • RSV and other respiratory illnesses are so high that amoxicillin is in short supply in the US. (Washington Post)
  • A treatment approved in Europe to treat RSV in infants may soon be available in the US. (CNN)
  • Diseases explode after extreme flooding and other climate disasters. (Scientific American)

Mental Health News:

  • Alcohol may be responsible for 1 in 8 deaths for Americans under the age of 65. (Gizmodo)
  • A single dose of synthetic psilocybin can significantly improve severe, treatment-resistant depression. (CNN)
  • Teens with more and better COVID knowledge reported better mental health. (CIDRAP)
  • Stress can be contagious, a new study finds, in both animals and humans. (Washington Post)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

How should our business prepare for the holidays from a health perspective?

A surge is already coming. In many places, it’s already here. Our own ZHH clinical team had to add shifts this week to account for the rising number of sick employees we’re seeing, and we only expect it to get worse as people start to gather indoors more and travel for the holidays. You should be prepared for more call-outs, and have a clear plan in place for what to do when multiple people call out sick at the same location. Consider what your minimum number of staff is to stay open, or when you might move to modified services, like restaurants choosing to do carry out and delivery only. There might be a time when you need to reinstate your mask mandate - have a clear policy around what would trigger that change, and communicate it ahead of time. When illness is circulating heavily in an area, it might make sense to move back to daily wellness checks temporarily if you’ve switched to a sick-call-only model. Spending a week or two monitoring all employees for symptoms can pay dividends by keeping sick employees out who thought it was “just a cold.” Winter is coming, and you should have clear policies in place for how to manage through any outbreaks.

Will this winter’s surge be as bad as Omicron was?

Hopefully not! Last year’s surge was a perfect storm of a new variant and holiday travel and gathering that just exploded. Our hope is that with updated boosters and more people having been infected this year, any new variants that arise between now and January will be more similar to Omicron and therefore we’ll have a level of protection that we didn't have last year. That said, new variants are emerging and competing with each other every day, and more holiday travel means that a new mutation could explode just as quickly if the conditions are right. We are hopeful that lightning won’t strike twice, but taking smart precautions - like improving ventilation in indoor spaces, wearing masks in crowded indoor gatherings and on public transit, and getting boosted ASAP will help make sure that this year is better than last.

How bad is RSV really right now?

RSV is very, very bad for young kids right now across the country. One children’s hospital in Fort Worth, TX treated a new patient for RSV symptoms every 2.5 minutes for 24 straight hours this week. 17 states have more than 80% of their pediatric hospital beds filled, with many individual areas higher than that. RSV hits young kids the hardest and is likely spiking because kids who haven’t had much outside contact during the pandemic haven’t had any exposure before now. Since there isn’t a major RSV vaccine yet (it’s coming as soon as next year), doctors encourage you to protect young kids’ health in other ways - like getting flu and COVID shots or wearing a helmet on bikes - to reduce the chance that they need to go to a maxed-out hospital for anything else.

Has Canada relaxed its workplace COVID precautions?

In some ways, yes. They’ve relaxed the vaccine requirement for entering businesses and events in many provinces - and for crossing the border into Canada. Each province is in charge of its own public health rules, so it can vary. In Ottawa, for example, COVID positive people who have no symptoms aren’t instructed to self-isolate, only to wear masks in public and avoid high-risk settings. In British Columbia, that same person needs to self-isolate for 5 days if vaccinated and 10 days if not. Many jurisdictions have lifted the emergency declarations that included regulations for businesses, and you can see a list of where those stand on the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety’s site here.  

Best Read:

Are the unvaccinated still a danger to the rest of us? - Los Angeles Times

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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.