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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, December 7th

Spending the holidays with Omicron 🎁

COVID Recap:

  • The Omicron variant has now been detected in 19 states, and is likely in many more. (NY Times)
  • Dr. Fauci called initial reports that Omicron may lead to milder illness “encouraging,” though he says it’s too early to be sure. (CNBC)
  • If Omicron is more contagious but less severe, that’s “good news for the human race” since it could outcompete Delta. (USA Today)
  • An Axios poll shows that most Americans aren’t willing to make big changes in their behavior to minimize risk from the new Omicron variant. About a third would stop eating indoors, and less than a quarter are likely to cancel holiday travel plans. (Axios)
  • More at-home testing means that people who test positive aren’t reporting it to public health agencies, leaving a real gap in data, and a missed opportunity to remind those folks to isolate. (STAT)
  • A new, very small study showed that those who got two Pfizer doses may have a better immune response from a booster of J&J than a third Pfizer shot - but it’s not yet peer reviewed and it’s sponsored by J&J, so we’ll wait to hear more before we make any recommendations. (NY Times)
  • A man in Italy tried to use a fake arm to get his vaccination card without getting a shot. He didn’t fool the nurse, and may face charges. (CNN)
  • 15 of the 30 people who attended an anime convention in New York with a man who later tested positive for Omicron now have COVID themselves. (Business Insider)
  • Men appear to spread COVID more easily than women or children, largely because they have bigger lungs. (CBS)

Today’s Health News:

  • In 2020, there were 14 million more malaria cases and 69,000 more deaths than in 2019,  primarily due to the disruption of malaria services caused by COVID. (UN)
  • The US surgeon general warned today of a mental health crisis among young people, made worse by the pandemic. (NY Times)
  • A new study found that Viagra may be correlated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. More clinical trials will be needed to really prove that the drug actually causes lower risk, but it’s a promising avenue for more research.  (Medical News Today)
  • It's probably no surprise that Americans’ blood pressure shot up last year. Scientists reported that measurements of nearly a half-million adults showed a significant rise compared with the previous year. (Yahoo News)

Best Questions:

Are your clients canceling holiday parties due to the uptick in cases and Omicron?

There’s definitely some renewed hesitancy around company holiday parties, though there’s a serious sense of COVID fatigue setting in, as well. We all know that people are ready to get back to holiday parties! We also know that a Norwegian office party last week made headlines after over 60 people were infected, many with Omicron. Some of our clients are continuing with pared down holiday parties, or events planned outdoors in areas where that’s possible. Others have added mandatory testing within 24 or 48 hours of the party and again once a few days later, to help reduce the risk. Many have decided to move forward with their pre-Omicron plans with whatever precautions they already had in place. We recommend testing for all attendees, even those who are vaccinated, to help reduce the risk. 

How can we safely travel for the holidays?

Whether to travel or not right now definitely depends on your personal comfort with risk. The new variant is here in the US, and case counts are up by nearly 30% compared to just two weeks ago. Unvaccinated people should delay travel until they’re fully vaccinated. For those who are vaccinated, getting a booster dose before you travel is a great way to help prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant. Testing regularly - before, during, and after your trip - is also a good idea. Make plans to self-isolate if you feel sick or test positive at any point in your trip, and know where you’ll stay if that happens. In general, wearing a mask, ventilating indoor spaces well, and washing your hands regularly are still the best methods for staying safe - other than being vaccinated and boosted, of course!

The rapid tests I bought have an expiration date that passed.  Does that mean I can’t use them?

This depends - it’s very possible that they’re still good but you’ll need to do some homework to check for the specific brand you have.  The FDA has extended expiration dates for many of the manufacturers - anywhere from six to twelve additional months.You’ll need to check the website for the manufacturer of your kit (and consider cross-referencing that against the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization site also.

Some school districts are excluding exposed students for 14 days and we’re following the CDC guidance of 10.  How do we explain the difference and should we follow the school’s exclusion timeline?

This is a common theme that we’re seeing repeatedly with schools and even local health departments. It’s entirely up to the school if they want to choose a policy that’s as strict or more so than the CDC recommendations. The CDC still technically recommends 14 days of quarantine for unvaccinated people who are exposed, but defers to local health departments and says that they may choose the option to keep someone out for 10 days without testing. Confusing, we know! While most schools and health departments are choosing the 10-day option, some are sticking with 14 for unvaxxed people who are exposed. In these cases, we recommend deferring to the school’s recommended quarantine as long as it matches or exceeds the CDC’s level of caution. Nobody wants to find out that their cashier is working today because they aren’t allowed at school - it’s just not a good look. 

Best Read or Listen:

MPR:  Osterholm on Omicron and the Holidays

Best Laugh:

Omicron Memes

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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.