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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, January 11th

😷 CDC may recommend N95s, still waiting on SCOTUS

COVID Recap:

  • Some labs are limiting PCR tests to those who need them most (sick patients) to cut down on backlogs and speed up processing time.  (WSJ)
  • There are reports that the CDC may recommend N95s or KN95s over other masks in light of Omicron’s transmissibility. (Washington Post)
  • Hospitalizations have surpassed last winter’s peak, despite access to vaccines and a slightly milder variant. (NY Times)
  • The WHO is warning that over half of Europe could catch COVID in the next 6-8 weeks if stronger precautions aren’t taken. (CNN)
  • Misinformation about COVID testing is spiking online - saying patently false things like that tests are vaccines in disguise (nope); that at-home tests have a predetermined result or are unreliable because different liquids can turn them positive (not true), or that PCR tests don’t work (they do). (NY Times)
  • Cyprus reported a new variant that combines Delta and Omicron. It’s still to early to know much about it. (CNBC)
  • The Federal government is shipping monoclonal antibodies to state health departments that may be ineffective against Omicron. (KHN)
  • The WHO says COVID vaccines may need to be updated for Omicron. (Reuters)
  • COVID loses 90% of its ability to infect after just a few minutes in the air. (The Guardian)
  • Vaccinated women transfer their antibodies to their babies when breastfeeding. (DG Alerts)
  • Nearly half of all patients admitted to NY Presybterian’s hospitals for other ailments tested positive for COVID. (NBC News)
  • Insurers will be required to provide eight over-the-counter at-home COVID tests per person per month. (CMS)
  • Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants are objecting to pilots who don’t comply with mask requirements, as well as varying enforcement. (Dallas News)
  • Chile will join Israel in offering a 4th dose, starting with those who are immunocompromised but eventually for all citizens. (Reuters)

Today’s Health News:

  • Two of the Famous Anthony’s restaurants involved in the Hepatitis A outbreak in Roanoke have filed bankruptcy. (WSLS)
  • Flu vaccination rates are troublingly low, especially for older Americans. (NY Times)
  • Pfizer and Moderna continue to work on a universal flu vaccine that could change the game for flu - which causes anywhere from 9 to 41 million infections per year. (CNBC)

Best Questions:

We’re operating in a state or county that isn’t following the new CDC 5-day guidance. What should we do?

This is a tough situation that we’re seeing again and again. We dealt with it when the CDC shortened guidance from 14 days to 10, as well, though after a few months most of them switched over to 10 after that change. At this point, it’s such a moving target to try to code specific counties and states in systematic ways because their guidance is changing so rapidly, that it’s nearly impossible to keep track.

For our own ZHH & Zedic Wellness Check clients, the employee themselves or the manager can chat with our team to let them know that they’re located in a county or state that requires 10-day guidance. We already do this any time an employee says that they’ve been given a quarantine end date - either by their health department, doctor, hospital, or any other medical provider, as long as that’s at least as stringent as the CDC guidance. We recommend advising managers in counties or states that are sticking with 10 days to keep an eye on their exclusions. For Wellness Check clients, they can reply to the exclusion email if it’s too short to let the nursing team know it needs to be extended to 10 days based on local county or state guidance.

All of this said, the CDC guidance is being updated regularly, and we are seeing lots of people needing to extend after 5 days, so there is some chance that our exclusion chart continues to change based on updated guidance - we’ll keep you updated as it does!

Some jurisdictions (like L.A.) are requiring “medical masks.”  What is a medical mask, and why is it necessary?

Almost any medical grade mask is permissible in most jurisdictions. The intent is to no longer use cloth masks or neck gaiters.  Omicron is so transmissible that a cloth mask really does little or nothing to prevent transmission. Employees shouldn’t use neck gaiters, bandanas or other cloth masks. Any surgical mask or respirator (KN95, N95, etc) should do the trick, though N95 or KN95 do provide more protection. We love this chart from the Wall Street Journal that shows the impact of better masks on how long it takes to transmit COVID:

Remember, masks work, but only if the proper masks are used and used properly (over the nose and mouth). Be sure employees aren’t re-using masks for too long, replace them when soiled, and wear them correctly!

Is someone with two J&J vaccines considered fully protected, and therefore doesn’t need to quarantine after an exposure?

According to a recent study, a second dose of J&J vaccine reduces hospitalizations from Omicron by 85%. While an mRNA vaccine as a booster is preferred after a single dose of J&J, if you had two doses of J&J, you are considered fully protected and won’t need to quarantine after exposures as long as you’re symptom-free.



Best Read

JAMA: A National Strategy for the New Normal



Best Laugh

This has absolutely nothing to do with COVID or Health News, isn’t really a best laugh but is oddly satisfying to watch and may be the mental health break we all need today.

Salmon Lego

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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.