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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, January 4th

Omicron explosion, plus more CDC changes coming?

Flash Briefing - Thursday 1/6 at 3pm ET

Please join Roslyn Stone, MPH, CEO, Zero Hour Health and Michelle Harden, JD Managing Partner, Messner Reeves as they discuss the ongoing COVID rollercoaster on Thursday, January 6th at 3pm EST (12pm Pacific).

We'll cover Omicron surging orders of magnitude beyond even our worst days in August, why 5 day exclusions aren’t bringing anticipated relief, what the Supreme Court OSHA ETS process will look like, and the legal interpretations around the ETS rollout, supervised testing, and more!

Register here!

COVID Recap:

  • We had one million recorded positive cases yesterday (and the real number could be ten times that with at-home tests).  (Market Watch)
  • Hospitalizations are up 27% over the past week. (Washington Post)
  • The state and local reactions to the CDC’s new guidelines were mixed, causing headaches for those operating there. Michigan says they won’t implement the new CDC guidance without ‘additional information.’ (NY Times)
  • The US Surgeon General says he expects the CDC may add an antigen testing component to their recent 5-day guidance. (US News)
  • The IHU variant, recently discovered in France, has 46 mutations and has been found in a dozen people there. Scientists are keeping a close eye on it. (The Independent)
  • The CDC recommends that everyone avoids cruise ships, regardless of their vaccination status. (CDC)
  • About 10-15% of Omicron infections in the UK are re-infections. (CNN)
  • Omicron is much more infectious but less deadly than previous variants, possibly because it does comparatively less damage to the lungs. (NY Times)
  • The CDC reduced waiting time to 5 months for Pfizer booster doses. (CNBC)
  • An Israeli study showed that a 4th dose boosted antibodies by 5x. (Reuters)
  • A throat swab may be better at detecting Omicron than a nasal swab, discovered by a medical anthropologist who “biohacked” her own test after she was sick but tested negative. (Slate)
  • A new study shows that even mild COVID can have a significant impact on lung function afterward, which puts people at higher risk for other respiratory-related issues. (Journal of Infectious Disease)


Today’s Health News:

  • A contractor in Jacksonville is facing jail time for unpaid OSHA fines. (Jax.com)
  • Avian flu continues to affect poultry farms all over the world. (CIDRAP)
  • More people are getting a double infection of Flu and COVID at the same time, sometimes dubbed ‘flurona’. Our own clinical team has seen a number of these in the past month. (CNN)


Best Questions:

Does someone with confirmed COVID need to test negative in order to return to work?

COVID+ people may test positive for weeks or even months after they’re no longer infectious, so in the past, the CDC has not required or even recommended that people should test negative before resuming their day to day activities after a COVID infection. That said, the US Surgeon General teased in the news this week that there may be updates to the latest CDC guidance shortening 10 days to 5, saying that there may be a role for antigen (or rapid) testing in returning sooner than 10 days. We’re watching this closely and will update you as soon as we hear from the CDC about any of this.

What happens in the new CDC world with someone who has had confirmed COVID in the last 90 days?

If they are exposed to someone COVID+ and they are symptom free, they can still return to work, though we recommend requiring them to wear a mask for 10 days, the same as those who are protected via immunization will need to after an exposure. According to the OSHA guidelines, someone unvaccinated doesn’t need to do weekly testing for 90 days after their initial symptom start date (or positive test date if they didn’t have symptoms). If someone who has recently had COVID has symptoms, they should be excluded from work based on those symptoms regardless of any recent infection. We’re seeing a much higher rate of reinfection with Omicron, so any symptoms should be treated as though they may be a new case of COVID.


If someone is not fully protected and gets exposed, can they return to work sooner if they get a booster today?

Not if they got the booster after their exposure. If they were already exposed, they might already be dealing with an infection, even if their symptoms haven’t shown up yet. Better to quarantine for the appropriate amount of time and then get the booster as soon as it’s safe to do so, without risking the exposure of the people at the vaccination site.

Do unvaccinated employees need to be excluded each time they have a new close contact? Is there a maximum number of times they should be excluded?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, unvaccinated employees need to be excluded every single time they have close contact (at least until they test positive - then they can be exempt for 90 days). There’s no maximum. We’re seeing unvaccinated employees being excluded over and over again due to exposure, but the reality is that they can become infectious after each exposure. Just because they luckily avoided getting sick the first few times doesn’t mean they won’t get sick after the next one. It’s just another reason that it’s crucial to focus on getting unvaccinated employees to get the shot - and to encourage everyone else to get the booster dose as soon as they’re eligible!

Best Read

The Atlantic:  Stop Wasting COVID Tests, People


Best Laugh

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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.