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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, April 5th

New XE variant & how to prep for a surge

Flash Briefing - Managing Sick Employees in Today's Staffing Crisis

Wednesday, April 13
3:00 - 4:00 Eastern Time

In the midst of a staffing crisis, managers can be your best defense or worst enemies when it comes to sick employees. Between norovirus, COVID, allergies, and mental health issues, managers play a big part in deciding who works, who stays home, and for how long. We'll discuss tools managers need to manage call outs, resources for employees and managers alike that can help reduce health-related staffing issues, and how to mitigate the impact of sick calls on the ongoing staffing crisis.

Register here!

COVID Recap:

  • The Senate struck a deal for $10 billion in COVID funds to keep testing, treatment and vaccine programs on track, but the White House says it needs far more for future pandemic efforts. (Politico)
  • A new variant in the UK, dubbed XE, seems to be the most transmissible yet. It’s a mix of the original Omicron variant and BA.2, but isn’t something to be concerned about yet. (ABC)
  • Employees announced a walkout in protest after Activision Blizzard dropped its vaccine mandate just before employees were returning to the office. (The Verge)
  • The first human challenge study, where real people were infected with COVID, showed that symptoms don’t translate to infectiousness - viral load in the throat does. (Reuters)
  • A new report shows that as many as 40% of all patients who died of COVID were diabetic, raising issues on COVID management but also who can most benefit from early intervention. (NY Times)
  • We’re learning more about COVID brain, that lingering fog that many COVID patients report for months. It appears to be from an overstimulated immune system response (MedPage Today)
  • Mix and match mRNA boosters appear to be the way to go, according to the latest findings. (Science)
  • The CDC will undergo an extensive revamp and a full review of its policies and practices to better position itself for the future. (Washington Post)
  • Early convalescent plasma may cut COVID hospitalizations in half. (CIDRAP)
  • Researchers made an ad using footage of Trump promoting vaccines on Fox news. In counties where the ad ran, about 100 more people on average got vaccines than in counties where it didn’t run. (Bloomberg)
  • People enrolled in Medicare can now get up to eight free at-home COVID tests per month. (AP)
  • Mask shaming is a new form of workplace harassment with potential legal repercussions, according to a new report from the Society for Human Resources Management. (SHRM)

Today’s Health News:

  • The WHO is reporting that there is a Shigella strain that is “extensively multi-drug resistant” moving across the UK and Ireland. (WHO News)
  • The already short-staffed nursing industry is seeing a wave of nurses quit in the wake of the RaDonda Vaught verdict, a rare case of a medical worker being criminally prosecuted for a medical error.  (KHN)
  • The CDC has declared the Listeria outbreak officially over that was tied to Dole bagged salads, with a total of 18 cases in 13 states and 3 deaths. The last illness occurred on January 15th.  (CDC)

Best Questions:

How can we prepare for a BA.2 surge as employers?

There’s plenty that you can do now to prepare for the next wave. First, determine a threshold for case counts that would trigger your “surge plan.” Your surge plan might include reinstating mask requirements for all employees, or if you’ve relaxed employee wellness checks or switched to sick calls, moving back to daily wellness checks. If you’ve brought employees back in-person at your offices, consider sending them back to remote work for a few weeks. If you’re a restaurant, think through how many employees would need to call out sick before you’d consider moving to off-premises dining. You can prep the communications and policy around this now, so that’s a relatively smooth transition if another surge does come. And in the meantime, use this current lull to have your COVID response team work on a campaign to get employees boosted - more than half of eligible adults aren’t boosted, and the booster is incredibly effective against Omicron and the BA.2 variant.

Does BA.2 have any special symptoms?

Like the first version of Omicron, BA.2 often presents (especially for those who are vaccinated) like a bad cold. Cough, runny nose, and sore throat seem to be more common with this than the original version of COVID, though fever, loss of smell, gastrointestinal symptoms, and a whole host of others are still relatively common. Even mild cases of COVID can make an otherwise healthy person feel pretty bad, and the possibility of long COVID is still high for those who have mild cases, so it’s certainly not “just a cold” in the traditional sense.

Should we continue to invest in better ventilation to reduce transmission?

It’s proven that strong ventilation can drastically slash the risk of transmission in an enclosed indoor space by over 80%. Generally, you want to target about 4-6 air changes per hour in most smaller indoor spaces, and it’s best to aim for the higher end there, especially in places like restaurants, where people will definitely be unmasked. Realistically, we think that moving forward, new buildings should plan for top of the line ventilation and filtration, aiming for that sweet spot of 6 changes per hour or more. For current spaces that aren’t up to snuff and where a major investment isn’t in the cards, quick fixes like additional air filters and open windows really do make a huge difference.

How worried should we be about this new avian flu?

There’s a new bird flu that’s sweeping through the US now, after earlier cases started cropping up in Asia and Europe. It’s affecting poultry farms and backyard flocks in many US states and Canada, and epidemiologists are keeping an eye on it, but it’s not a major threat right now to humans. There are some people that have gotten sick and even died from it, but they all had direct contact with infected birds. And while there’s the possibility that it mutates, right now there’s no evidence that it can spread from person to person, only from an infected bird to someone that had close physical contact with that bird. We’re not too worried about this right now in terms of a human epidemic, though it could certainly add to food supply woes if more flocks need to be culled to contain the virus.

Best Read:

Why People Are Acting So Weird - The Atlantic

Best Laugh:

Regina Hall had a test for some of the single men in the Academy…

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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.