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The Executive Briefing - Friday, September 24th

Prepping for OSHA mandates, battling misinfo, and more

New Podcast Episode:

Weekly Testing Under the New Mandate

We've got Mara Aspinall back this week to discuss President Biden's new testing directive, how it all works, why it's important, and what challenges we'll face as we try to implement these new guidelines.

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts!

COVID Recap

  • The CDC Director partly overruled its advisory board by expanding booster recommendations to include front line and high risk workers. Older adults, nursing home residents, and those 50+ with underlying health conditions are also eligible six months after their second Pfizer dose.  (NPR)
  • A daily pill to treat COVID could be just months away. Three different ones are in clinical trials.  These are antivirals that work similar to Tamiflu for the flu. Great news! (KHN)
  • If you think COVID precautions are challenging, the protocol built out by SpaceX to protect astronauts from COVID is long, comprehensive, and complicated.  (CNBC)
  • Colorado is making at-home testing available for free to everyone in the state.  They bought 2 million Abbott IDNow rapid antigen tests to distribute. (Denver Channel)
  • And in other big Colorado COVID testing news, CDPHE rolled out a new school-based student testing program. The state is paying students to get tested -  $25 for the first weekly test and then $10 per weekly test after that. And schools are receiving supplies, support, manpower, $2.50 for each test administered.  (Colorado.gov)
  • A man in Canada is now wanted for punching the nurse who administered his wife’s COVID vaccine. The pharmacy where it was administered has suspended vaccinations (temporarily). (CNN)
  • California is considering a vaccine requirement to attend in person school for children ages 12 and over. (Mercury News)
  • More good news - vaccine hesitancy has decreased over time and continues to drop. Now, it’s up to public health to make it super easy for those who are willing to actually get the jab. (JAMA)
  • Hospitals are asking patients to pre-schedule COVID tests in certain areas, rather than just show up, as the volume is overwhelming them and the risk for exposure is better controlled with appointments. (WAOW)
  • Some are concerned that the vaccine mandate will make the ongoing nursing shortage even worse. (New York Times)


Today’s Health News

  • The Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak reported last week has grown to 284 cases and 26 hospitalizations.  A food source has not yet been identified. Unconfirmed rumors that cilantro is the culprit haven’t been vetted by the CDC yet.   (CDC).  
  • Even so, there was a major decrease (26%!) in foodborne illness during the pandemic. (MMWR)
  • A case of H1N2 or Swine Flu in Ohio was likely spread from person to person, since the sick person and his contacts had no interaction with pigs at all. Luckily, no ongoing transmission has been found. (CDC)

Best Questions:

What are others doing to convince unvaccinated managers to get the vaccine?

This is the question of the hour.  Managers getting vaccinated is critically important if they are going to be your vaccination champions and responsible for your weekly testing.   Some employers are mandating vaccinations for managers.  Others are cajoling, encouraging, and incentivizing.  We know this is challenging.  We’re doing a vaccination education webinar, specifically for unvaxxed managers, for one client next week to try and move the needle on this one.  


An employee shared a website with co-workers that implied (falsely!) that COVID tests can give you cancer.  How should we address that?

Bad sources of information continue to be a huge problem.  And we’ve heard this same false claim repeatedly over the last several weeks.  Point employees to solid sources of information: local and state health departments’ websites, the CDC, Mayohealth.org (the Mayo Clinic’s site) and to their personal physicians or medical providers.  Let’s be clear - COVID tests do NOT cause cancer.  


It feels like we’re seeing regulatory mayhem again, from Virginia to Hawaii. Is everyone else also having trouble keeping up… again?

It does feel like we’re back in April 2020 with rapidly changing guidance, conflicting requirements, and nearly everyone having trouble keeping up with it all. When OSHA’s ETS is published, the national vaccination or weekly testing mandate should help address some of the current uncertainty.  But we are seeing real challenges in monitoring the changing situation and in compliance.  When that’s paired with our overall COVID fatigue, it is even more challenging.

What should we be doing to get ready for the new OSHA guidelines mandating vaccination or weekly testing?

We wish we knew the timing but we’re not gaining much clarity about when this will all start. Here are a few good first steps:

  1. Make sure your managers are vaccinated.  They’ll need to be your vaccination and testing champions or coaches.  So, if they’re not vaccinated, it could be an issue.
  2. Focus on not letting anyone work sick (through Daily Wellness Checks) so that you minimize the risk of positives when testing begins.
  3. Consider pilot testing in a few locations.  What we’ve learned in the few locations that are already requiring weekly testing is that it isn’t particularly easy, and requires coordination.


Will someone who recently had COVID be exempted from the weekly testing requirement?

We don’t know because we haven’t seen the OSHA ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) yet.  It certainly makes sense that they might include some exemptions like this one, though.  There are some issues with testing for recently COVID+ people - some test positive for months even after they’re not infectious. Plus, they have some immunity for at least 90 days which the CDC guidelines for exposure acknowledge. We sincerely hope that the OSHA guidance aligns with the best clinical guidance from the CDC.  With that said, there’s been a lack of alignment between regulatory agencies, so it’s anyone’s guess.  Our  advice to those employees, if not vaccinated previously, is go get Dose 1 as soon as your symptoms end (following the advice of their providers - there are some rare exceptions for those treated with monoclonal antibodies when they were sick).  Studies show that someone who already had COVID and then gets two doses of mRNA vaccine has the highest level of protection.


Best Read:

The CDC panel approval of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, explained

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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.