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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, December 20th

How to stay safe for the holidays, plus anxiety over China's surge


  • CalOSHA will end its emergency ETS in January and adopt new semi-permanent standards, which include a stricter definition of close contact (sharing indoor space vs. 6 ft), employer record-keeping requirements, and the elimination of exclusion pay. (CalOSHA)
  • COVID is still spreading among dozens and possibly hundreds of species of wild animals, creating a risk for new variants spilling back over to humans. (The Atlantic)
  • One Virginia restaurateur has had his liquor license revoked due to failure to comply with COVID rules, but has reached an agreement with the state alcoholic beverage commission to start pouring again this week. (Washington Post)
  • The updated bivalent booster adds protection against COVID hospitalization. (MedPage Today)
  • A US appeals court ruled that the government cannot mandate that federal contractors require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID. (Reuters)
  • As China lifts its zero-COVID policy, confusion and misinformation are spreading quickly. (NPR)
  • The BF.7 is circulating in Beijing as cases rise there following the lifting of COVID precautions. (CBS)
  • After Celine Dion shared a diagnosis of Stiff-Person Syndrome, false information has spread, but there is zero evidence that it’s linked in any way to the COVID vaccine. (AP)

Public Health News:

  • Over 200 cases of norovirus in at least 8 states are linked to raw oysters from Texas. Don’t serve raw oysters harvested from Galveston Bay between 11/17 and 12/7. (CDC)
  • Early reports seem to indicate that flu season, which has been historically high, may be peaking. (Axios)
  • CVS and Walgreens have limited the purchase of children’s pain medicines to prevent stockpiling as they face low supply and high demand amid one of the worst flu seasons in a decade. (Reuters)
  • The DOT issued revised guidance allowing the continued use of remote assessments for Substance Abuse Professionals and drug or alcohol violations. This is a big deal for keeping people with drug and alcohol offenses at work. (DOT)

Mental Health News:

  • Some teens are ditching their phones to spare their mental health. (NY Times)
  • Massachusetts is about to open 25 behavioral health centers with 24-hour crisis intervention and beds. (MassLive)
  • The pandemic actually warped our sense of time. (NPR)

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:

What are the side effects of Paxlovid?

The most common side effects of Paxlovid are diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, and a temporary change in sense of taste, often called Paxlovid Tongue. Rarer and more serious side effects include an allergic reaction (hives, trouble swallowing or breathing, rash) or liver problems (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, pale-colored stool). For those with HIV, it can cause resistance to HIV medicines, making them less effective. If you experience any serious side effects while taking Paxlovid, call your doctor and seek medical attention.

Should we be worried about what’s happening in China?

We should certainly keep an eye on it. Some experts predict that a million people will die in 2023 if China’s case counts continue to surge and vaccinations stay stalled as they end their strict “zero COVID” policy. As a result of looser restrictions, China’s outbreak creates a risk that a new variant emerges. China’s massive population of 1.4 billion people means that risk is higher than it might be elsewhere. Unfortunately, there’s a relatively low “immunity wall” due to previously low virus spread and China’s use of non-mRNA vaccines, which are less effective against Omicron subvariants. The conditions are right for the virus to continue its exponential spread. Right now, the variants circulating in China are all Omicron subvariants, but if their surge is as large as some predict it might be, it could create an opportunity for mutations to arise and a new variant to emerge. We’ll definitely be watching closely and continuing to update on the situation.

Do reports that flu is peaking mean we can worry less about flu?

Not just yet - peaking is a good thing (if it’s actually happening), but it doesn’t mean numbers are actually down, just that they’re not continuing to skyrocket. Early data indicates it is the worst flu season in nearly two decades. The flu is still bad out there, and with the holidays coming up and travel reaching pre-pandemic levels, we should not let our guard down. Stay home when you’re sick, even if you test negative for COVID - it could be the flu, RSV, or something else contagious.

How can I travel safely for the holidays?

First, wear a mask on planes, trains, or other public transportation. It’s low lift and it protects you and those around you. Take a rapid test before you travel, and again when you arrive before you gather with friends or family, especially if you’re meeting up with those who are at higher risk, like grandparents or new babies. If anyone does start to feel sick, have them isolate even if they test negative - it’s not fun to miss the festivities, but it’s even less fun to spread a virus to the whole family.

Best Read:

Inside a Children's Hospital: Struggling to Cope with a Surge of Respiratory Illnesses | KHN

A Note from ZHH: Enjoy your holidays, stay safe, and we’ll resume the Executive Briefing in the new year! If anything urgent comes up, we’ll send an alert through the app and via email. Happy holidays!

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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.