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In NYC and LA county, local government officials have now returned to strongly recommending indoor masking due to a rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations, along with flu and RSV. In both places, they’ve stopped short of a full mask mandate. Ultimately, this leaves your own mask policy for employees and patrons up to you. As a private business, you’re able to set and change your mask policy barring any local mandates, but the reality of reinstating a mask mandate may prove controversial. If you’re considering it, we recommend creating some set guidelines for when you reinstate masks (like when the COVID Community Level is “high” in your county, or when the case positivity rate is above 10%, for example), so that it’s a clear metric that your employees can understand and track. Manipulating other precautions, like temporarily switching from sick calls back to daily wellness checks for all employees in an area with an outbreak, might be easier to swallow than reverting to a mask mandate.
It can be very tricky to tell them apart without testing since so many symptoms are shared. The New York Times put out a nifty chart (found here) where you can click your symptoms and see how common they are for each of the three illnesses involved in our current triple threat. Flu may have a quicker onset and COVID may have more of a “constellation” of symptoms. Right now with the variants circulating in the US, sore throat is the most common first symptom for COVID. RSV on the other hand may look more like the common cold in adults, with runny nose and sneezing. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to test, and at-home COVID tests are far more available than at-home flu and RSV tests.
This can be tricky, because it’s possible for some people to continue testing positive (especially on PCR tests) for weeks or even months after their initial infection, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they’re infectious. But rebound is also possible - if someone tests negative and gets better and then develops new symptoms and tests positive a few weeks later, it could be a rebound or a totally new infection with a different variant. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell, so we recommend treating those cases as new infections, which means isolating for five days and wearing a mask in public for another five.
It’s possible that you had COVID even though you never tested positive, especially on rapid antigen tests which are less sensitive than PCR tests. So it’s entirely possible that you can experience long COVID without ever being sure that you had it. There is an antibody test that’s available that can test for prior infection (even if you’ve been vaccinated) but it’s not super readily available - we’d only recommend it if you need proof of a positive test to get treated for long COVID.
If you haven’t already, check out our most recent podcast, a flash briefing about the Tripledemic, and some much-needed optimism from Roslyn’s guest, Dr. LJ Tan.
Listen to the Zero (Half) Hour here!