First, this is a legal question and, as always, you should consult with your legal counsel to handle company policy, hiring, and vaccination status issues. Here’s our general understanding, not intended as legal advice. You can include questions about vaccination status as long as you don’t violate ADA and religious considerations. If you have a company policy around vaccination and masking, you can inform new hires of that policy. You’ll need to make sure it’s a vaccine mandate for all employees, and that it’s listed in the job posting and application, as well. You’ll need to engage in an interactive process, according to our friends over at Messner Reeves, LLP, if someone mentions anything that might require accommodations related to a disability or religion. Here’s a good quick article about this subject from Fisher Phillips, too. Again, consult with your legal counsel to handle these tricky legal situations.
Yes! We’ve heard a lot of misinformation about this, but the CDC and doctors agree that you can get any routine vaccination - including the flu shot - at the same time you get the COVID vaccine (and within 14 days). If you’re due for a COVID booster (8 months after your second dose) in September or October, you can absolutely ask the pharmacy or clinic to get both at the same time and most will say yes! What you shouldn’t do is delay getting your flu shot past October in order to get both together. Waiting could leave you unprotected at the height of flu season, and our overrun hospitals definitely don’t need a flu “twindemic” on top of COVID.
Generally we recommend that you treat any reported COVID+ as a true positive, even if they don’t have proof of their positive test. While it’s true that testing has improved and most people have photos or screenshots of their positive test results, we are seeing more at-home tests where people don’t take a picture of the results, or where the results are hard to read. Some people also prefer not to share their test results as personal information. It’s a tough call if you think an employee might be lying, and you can decide on your company policy on what to do if they can’t provide proof or if you find out they’re not actually positive after saying they were. But the vast majority of people who chat in to our daily employee wellness check program saying they’re COVID+ share pictures of their results that are legitimate, and we’d much rather do the proper contact tracing and exclusion than skip it and find out later it was legit.
First thing to keep in mind is that 6ft and 15 minutes were never magic numbers. They’re just good general rules of thumb to help people think about their risk of exposure. Six feet was the distance chosen because of some old studies showing that most big droplets expelled when speaking or laughing hit the ground before six feet. And 15 minutes was a general estimate for how long someone would need to be in close proximity to a sick person before it was very likely they inhaled some respiratory droplets. There have always been exceptions - if you were coughed or sneezed on (even in passing), if you shared drinks or utensils, if you hugged or kissed, you would be excluded even if you didn’t meet the 15 minute mark because your contact was so close that you’d likely exchanged respiratory droplets.
It’s true that there’s some evidence that the Delta variant is much more easily transmitted than the original version of the virus we dealt with early on, and that even fleeting contact has been shown to be enough to transmit the virus. The CDC hasn’t changed the definition of close contact, so you can still use 6ft and 15 minutes for exclusion and contact tracing in most cases, but it’s also important to consider how well ventilated the space is, whether the sick person was singing or exercising and therefore exhaling more forcefully, and whether you did anything else that might bring into close contact with the sick person’s respiratory droplets (like hugging and kissing). We’re keeping a close eye on this as scientists continue to study the Delta variant and its transmission, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some local jurisdictions shorten the time period that they use to define close contact.