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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, January 18th

Is this really the peak? 📈

COVID Recap:

  • Dr. Fauci said that it’s too early to know if Omicron is the end of the pandemic, saying that other future variants could prolong the pandemic. (CNBC)
  • Despite some early signs that cases are slowing in the Northeast, the Surgeon General and other experts warn that other areas are still rising. (Washington Post)
  • The new government website allowing households to order up to four at-home COVID tests went live today at covidtests.gov. (CNN)
  • Officials across the country are struggling to regulate pop-up COVID testing sites, and scams are out there. (KHN)
  • Apple is now requiring employees (corporate and retail) to show proof of having received  booster doses. (The Verge)
  • The CDC is now encouraging Americans to wear N95s to reduce risk. (STAT)
  • A new study from Harvard challenges the CDC’s determination that the Omicron variant is no longer infectious (or less infectious) after just 5 days. (Harvard)
  • In Greece, unvaccinated adults over 60 will face a €50 monthly fine.  (The Guardian)
  • A group of physicians has begged Spotify to remove podcasts containing COVID misinformation in an open letter. (Spotify)
  • Moderna hopes to have a combo Flu, COVID, and RSV mRNA vaccine by as early as 2023. (Politico)
  • SHRM is advising that OSHA rules similar to the ETS (but not under the same restrictions) could return under the General Duty clause. (SHRM)
  • Rapid covid test kits are generally temperature sensitive and some are arriving frozen. (ABC)

Today’s Health News:

  • There are now two deaths associated with the Hepatitis A outbreak associated with a restaurant in Montgomery County, PA. (Patch)
  • The Shigella outbreak in San Diego, which started back in October,  is officially over  according to the San Diego Department of Health.  (San Diego County News)
  • And as if we didn’t have enough on our plates, China is reporting that two patients have died from an H5N6 Avian Flu with two others in critical condition and a fifth seriously ill.  (Forbes)

Best Questions:

Can you explain the updated guidance extending from 5 to 10 days if an employee tests positive toward the end of their exclusion?

The CDC changed their guidance recently saying that if someone COVID+ wants to test and can find a test available, if they test positive “toward the end” of their 5 day exclusion, then they should extend their isolation period to a full 10 days from their symptom onset (or from the first positive test date if they were asymptomatic). This means a negative test isn’t required to return to work, but if someone tests positive toward the end, they should stay out until Day 10.  We’re defining “towards the end” as Days 3, 4, or 5 after symptom onset or first positive test date if asymptomatic. See our blog post about this for more details on this new update.

If someone was just exposed, can they get their booster today to avoid quarantine due to close contact?

No, if the exposure happened before they were boosted, they may already be infected with the virus. This is why it’s incredibly important to get boosted to stay “up to date” on vaccinations, so that future close contacts won’t need to result in exclusion. If someone was already exposed, they need to stay home for at least 5 days, mask for an additional 5, and should get boosted as soon as possible after their quarantine is up to avoid this in the future!

Should we require unvaccinated employees to get tested if they develop symptoms?

Great question and one to refer to your lawyers.  But it might make good sense. We’re seeing the same unvaccinated employees excluded multiple times for both their own symptoms and for repeated close contact with other COVID+ people. It makes staffing difficult now and won’t get any better in the future. At least testing positive exempts an employee from needing close contact exclusions for 90 days from their symptom onset, which isn’t much, but is certainly better than nothing.

Do you treat a positive at-home rapid test any differently than a lab PCR positive?

No -  a positive test is a positive test, period. Both rapids and PCRs have over 99% accuracy for positives, so basically any positive is a true positive. A rapid negative test means less than a PCR negative, but both don’t mean a whole lot - we’re seeing lots of symptomatic people test negative repeatedly before eventually testing positive. Even a negative PCR test might miss that you’re infected with the virus, which is why people with symptoms should stay home even if they test negative.

Best Listen:

It’s been a while since we circled back to our old friend, Mike Osterholm.  In this episode, Dr. Osterholm discusses Omicron's impact and what our “new normal” of life with COVID should be. He also talks about how Omicron is affecting kids, what the current hospitalization numbers really mean, and answers some testing questions.  Definitely worth a listen.

Episode 86: The Omicron Crisis | CIDRAP

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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.