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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, January 24th

Are annual COVID shots on the horizon?


  • The FDA is proposing switching to annual updated COVID-19 vaccinations mimicking flu shots; some experts applaud the proposed change while others are concerned it delays response to new sub-variants. (Washington Post)
  • Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 now makes up half of U.S. COVID cases. (Reuters)
  • Only 1% of immune-impaired American adults have gotten the recommended 5 COVID vaccine doses, and 41% receiving 4 doses of the vaccination series. (Univ of Minn)
  • As the US enters year four of the pandemic, hundreds of people are still dying of COVID each day. (Forbes)
  • Officials in China say that 8 in 10 people have caught COVID since early December when restrictions were lifted. (The Guardian)
  • Latino teens are being deputized as health educators in California as a creative way to raise low Latino vaccination rates. (KHN)
  • Unvaccinated COVID patients are at a greater risk of death and cardiovascular disease for at least 18 months after illness. (SKY News)

Public Health News:

  • A new measles case in Kentucky has been directly linked to the Ohio measles outbreak. (WVLT)
  • Researchers are divided on whether or not the second FDA-approved Alzheimers’ drug provides a benefit. (Yahoo News)
  • And in other measles news, a woman with highly infectious measles traveled through SeaTac in Seattle last week. She came into contact with hundreds of other travelers. (KOMO News)
  • Even shorter outdoor exercise may be better for your brain than longer indoor exercise. (Gizmodo)
  • Eating grapes prevented skin cancer, according to a  small new study. A third of participants were less likely to get sunburned after eating just 2 ¼ cups of grapes for two weeks, and their protection lasted weeks longer. (SciTech Daily)
  • This season’s bird flu outbreak is the worst in US history. The H5N1 avian flu strain has killed tens of millions of birds in the US in recent months. (Yahoo Finance)
  • Trends over the last decade show that millennials are suffering more strokes and scientists don’t really have a clear answer as to why. (Real Clear Science)

Mental Health News:

  • There are new concerns about the widespread use of antidepressants leading to emotional “blunting.” (SciTech Daily)
  • A new study supports that mindfulness may be as effective as medication in reducing anxiety. (Washington Post)
  • The NFL has been slow to embrace mental health support for players, highlighted by teams’ varying responses to Damar Hamlin’s recent cardiac arrest. (KHN)

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:

How much will COVID vaccines cost after the government stops paying for them?

Right now, the government has paid around $20 per dose of COVID vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna, on average. When that ends (which it will soon without congressional action) and they transition to the commercial market, Pfizer has indicated that a single dose will cost $110-$130, and Moderna’s will cost $82-$100, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But for those with insurance, vaccines are still likely to be no-cost or low-cost for individuals. People who are uninsured may face financial barriers, and local and community public health organizations will likely have to spend money to support their access.

We’re opening a location on a college campus. Any specific health issues to think about?

Yes! College campuses have unique employee and guest health concerns because they’re hotspots for infectious diseases that spread in close quarters. First and foremost, norovirus loves college campuses. Some of the biggest noro outbreaks in the news have started on or near campuses, so making sure you have excellent noro sanitizing protocols should be step one. Other illnesses like meningitis and mono are much more common, too. Train managers to keep an ear to the ground, emphasize the importance of staying home when sick, and consider ramping up to daily wellness checks or symptom surveys if there are any outbreaks happening around campus or if an employee is diagnosed with an infectious illness.

We have a possible Legionnaires’ disease. What should we do?

Legionnaires’ Disease is a lung infection caused by the Legionella bacteria. Generally, people don’t spread Legionnaires’ to each other but get it from standing water where the bacteria has had the chance to grow and then gets aerosolized and inhaled, like shower heads, cooling towers, or decorative fountains. It’s especially common after a prolonged closure or shutdown when the water in the building was still. If one employee has Legionnaires’ and you weren’t recently shut down for a long period of time, there’s a good bet that it’s not anything related to the workplace - maybe they live in an older building with a water system that wasn’t maintained, or recently went on a cruise or to a hotel. But if multiple employees or guests are diagnosed, then you should expect a visit from the health department ASAP, and you should look at your water system to identify a source of Legionella bacteria. ZHH and Zedic clients can give us a call if this ever happens - we’ll help walk you through the process.

We have lots of employees struggling with long COVID. How can we support them?

A new review article found that more than 65 million people worldwide may have long COVID, a number so big it’s hard to fathom. What that means for businesses is that you almost certainly have employees suffering from long COVID symptoms, which can be frustratingly amorphous. It can affect basically every major organ system. The good news is that recent studies show that it tends to get better - in many, though not all, who had symptoms a few months after infection, those were gone at the one-year mark. But for those who have persistent symptoms, it should be treated as any other disability - you’ll need to engage your HR team to come up with accommodations that work for each employee’s specific situation.

Best Read:

Will America's Public Health Reckoning Ever Come? - Stat News

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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.