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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, February 8

Nearly 60% still testing positive on Day 6 🧫

COVID Recap:

  • The CDC’s 5-day isolation guidance is being questioned by experts after a major study conducted at University of Chicago found that 58% of healthcare workers were still positive on Day 6.  (MedPage Today)
  • Governors are dropping indoor mask mandates in NJ, CA, CT, OR, and DE. New York is holding out, for now. (NY Times)
  • The CDC is recommending a fourth dose for people who are immunocompromised. It’s currently recommended at least five months after the third dose, though that may shorten to three. Some immunocompromised people seeking a fourth dose have been turned away at vaccine sites, which the CDC is trying to address. (CNN)
  • The brain fog associated with long COVID may be similar to Alzheimer’s and a result of brain inflammation. Understanding this is key to preventing it and may include giving patients beta blockers as part of treatment. (Alzheimer’s Journal)
  • One women’s Olympic Hockey game included more COVID issues than you can count - late, positive, and inconclusive test results and mask fatigue. But Canada won (in masks no less)!  (WSJ)
  • A pizza place in Pennsylvania is tied to an illegal drug scheme, with a doctor arrested for prescribing Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine via a Facebook page for their mother’s restaurant.  (MedPage Today)
  • White-tailed deer can easily catch COVID, leading to concerns that they could be a source for potential new variants. (NY Times)
  • American University unknowingly distributed counterfeit KN95s to students and staff last week. (Washington Post)
  • Finding the next deadly virus and preventing it from spreading from bats, rats, or monkeys to humans is key to stopping the next pandemic. (USA Today)
  • CA and IL are taking up the fight for paid sick leave after a lack of federal action. (Politico)

Today’s Health News:

  • More deer across the US have Chronic Wasting Disease, a deadly disease similar to Mad Cow. While it hasn’t yet been found in humans, it affects monkeys who eat infected meat or come in contact with body fluids, so there’s real risk to humans if it gets into the food chain. (CIDRAP)
  • The H5N1 bird flu continues to spread in US poultry and wild birds. So far, most of the spread to humans has been through direct contact with infected birds, but no humans are sick in the US. (USDA)
  • There’s an ongoing FDA investigation of an E.coli outbreak sickening 16 people, but there’s no additional information available yet. (FDA)

Best Questions:

Are you seeing employees coming back after five days in California?

Not very often, in California or really anywhere else. Most people, if they do become symptomatic, are still sick after five days. In fact, a new study out of Chicago shows that more than half of people are still testing positive after five days. Especially in California, where sick pay is an option for a full 10 days, we’re seeing a very limited percentage of people actually ready to return on Day 5.

We have an employee who tested positive for COVID again - 4th time total and 2nd since the start of this surge.  Are you seeing a lot of this?

We are seeing more reinfections, though four is about the highest we’ve seen. First, telling reinfection from continuing infection is a challenge. Some may test positive for weeks, and have recurring or even new symptoms 10+ days after their initial infection. That said, reinfections do happen, and more often with Omicron than previous variants. Whether you’re reinfected depends on how large a viral load you’re exposed to, how strong an immune response your body mounted the first time, which variant you were infected with (it may be more common if someone was infected with Delta and then Omicron, for example), and the dose of and length since vaccination.  Reinfections are certainly more common in those who are unvaccinated and in those whose previous infection was mild.  One report from the UK documents Omicron reinfection in as short as 28 days in a small, not yet peer-reviewed study.

If the ETS is off the table, do we need to track employee vaccination status?

Yes. Regardless of the federal OSHA ruling, state and local regulations across the country have specific guidance with different mask and testing rules for those who are unvaccinated. There’s also different CDC guidance for those who were exposed who are up to date on their vaccination to avoid quarantine. As we continue to move forward with exposures being an increasingly common part of day to day operations, knowing which of your employees are exempt from quarantine after exposure can make the difference between needing to shut down a location and being able to continue operating.

Is there a message that is resonating with unvaxxed employees or those who haven’t gotten boosted?

There are two messages that we’ve seen working lately.  First, that your free booster dose (or first dose) is waiting for you at a local pharmacy (or wherever is super convenient for your team!). Second, getting vaccinated and boosted will help you and your colleagues working even if you’re exposed. While these messages may be more effective for boosters than for never-vaxxers, we’re seeing some evidence that they work better than the messaging that seems to have fallen flat: that vaccination and boosters prevent you from dying or being hospitalized with COVID. That message has been hammered home by public health officials and doesn’t seem to be moving the needle anymore.

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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.