Want to receive The Executive Briefing directly to your inbox? Subscribe here!
You've been subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Back to GetZedic.com

The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, March 21st

Noro ⬆️, COVID ⬇️⬇️⬇️


  • COVID case rates (along with other winter respiratory viruses) are continuing to fall, which is great news. (CDC)
  • The global pandemic emergency declaration is expected to end this year. (WHO)
  • President Biden signed legislation to declassify certain pieces of intelligence on COVID’s origins. (CNBC)
  • 5000 deaths may have been avoided this winter due to higher Paxlovid use. (CIDRAP)
  • Moderna’s COVID vaccine will cost $130 in the US, though the actual cost to individual consumers is likely to be lower with insurance. (Reuters)
  • Long COVID symptoms may be less common since the latest Omicron variant. (Washington Post)
  • A new variant, XBB.1.16 has caused a 17% increase in deaths in India, but it’s hard to tell if that number is inflated to Holi celebrations. (YLE)

Public Health News:

  • Norovirus continues to climb, and the positive test rate is showing no signs of slowing. We’re seeing cases across the country. (CDC)
  • Top scientists have issued a ‘survival guide for humanity,’ calling for major course correction after the UN warned that the world is on the brink of catastrophic warming, which raises infectious disease and deadly heat risk. (Washington Post)
  • Vaccine makers are prepping bird flu vaccines for humans ‘just in case,’ and wealthier nations are locking in supplies now. (Reuters)
  • Group A strep has continued to spread across the US, with one recent surge in childhood cases in Illinois. (NBC)
  • Polio cases derived from the new oral vaccine have been found in the DRC and Burundi. (STAT)
  • More brands of organic frozen strawberries have been recalled after being identified as the source of an ongoing Hep A outbreak. (FDA)
  • The potentially deadly fungus Candida auris is spreading quickly in the US, especially in healthcare facilities. It is resistant to multiple antifungal medications. (NPR)
  • The pandemic lowered America’s step count - by an average of 600 steps per day - and we still haven’t bounced back. (CNN)
  • Overdoses are up nationwide, and the DEA has issued warnings about the presence of xylazine (tranq) in fentanyl supplies. (CBS)
  • One in five newborns in Philadelphia is not protected from the measles, and some experts are calling for kids to be vaccinated earlier if an outbreak occurs. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Mental Health News:

  • Just 5 minutes of breathing exercises can improve your mood and reduce your anxiety, perhaps more than the same amount of meditation. (Washington Post)
  • Law schools are experimenting with texting to help support students’ mental health. (Reuters)
  • The pandemic has underscored an urgent need to address Latino migrants’ mental health needs. (Houston Chronicle)
  • The Surgeon General’s new mission is adolescent mental health. (NY Times)

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:

What should we do if an employee has a confirmed norovirus test?

It’s rare that an employee actually has a confirmed lab-tested case of noro. It happens occasionally, often when employees wind up seeking medical treatment and get a stool sample taken at the hospital or urgent care. The employee should stay out of work until at least 48 hours after their symptoms end since they can still spread noro after they start to feel better. Send home anyone that they live with or date and keep them out for at least two days to see if symptoms develop. Clean the entire facility with a noro-approved sanitizer (remember, QUAT doesn’t kill noro!), paying extra attention to bathrooms and high-traffic touch points. Step up handwashing, and consider going to daily wellness checks (as opposed to sick calls) for a few days to ensure that everyone with GI symptoms is staying home. Perhaps most important, you should expect a visit from the health department. Since noro is a reportable illness, the lab or doctor’s office that processes the result will report it to the local health department, who may come for an inspection. Make sure you have soap in the dispenser, hot water is working, handwashing sinks aren’t blocked, and any previous inspection violations are addressed.

How does norovirus spread?

This answer is gross, but crucial as cases are rising across the country. You can get infected with norovirus when you get tiny particles of feces (poop) or vomit from an infected person into your mouth. This happens from eating or drinking things that are contaminated, touching surfaces and then putting your fingers in your mouth, or through direct contact with someone sick. Noro is unbelievably contagious - sick people can shed billions of virus particles but you only need 18 to make someone sick. It’s hard to fathom how contagious this virus is – the amount of virus that fits on the head of a pin can sicken 1,000 people! People are most contagious when they have symptoms and during the first few days after they start to feel better, which is why it’s important that they stay home for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop. The scary part is that some people can still spread noro for two weeks or more after they feel better, which can make it hard to break the cycle of illness.

What are the symptoms of the Candida auris fungus? Should businesses be concerned about it?

Candida auris is a fungus that the CDC has warned about recently because infections are on the rise, particularly in healthcare settings. It can be tricky because it often infects people sick with something else. It causes fever and chills, among other symptoms, and most of the time it’s suspected if a person has a fever that doesn’t improve after taking antibiotics. Only a lab test can actually diagnose C. auris. The fungus can survive on surfaces for weeks, so proper disinfection and handwashing are key to preventing the spread. It’s not a major concern for most employers right now, unless you work in healthcare or nursing homes where there’s an outbreak. We’re keeping a close eye on it since it’s possible that this drug-resistant strain might eventually be more of an issue outside of hospitals and nursing homes, but for now, most businesses don’t need to worry.

We asked for a doctor's note for an employee who may have an infectious disease, but they didn't see a medical provider. How should we handle it?

Many clients will keep a sick employee out of work until they share the doctor’s note if they have symptoms of a reportable infectious disease, like Hepatitis A for example. Sometimes employees simply never get those. This quickly becomes an HR issue if the employee hasn’t shared the note that’s required for them to return. Many clients will choose to terminate the employee. Be sure not to allow them to return to work without appropriate clinical clearance, especially in food service roles. Sometimes when HR begins to look into this, we find that employees will change their answer about their symptoms or say they made it up, and you’ll need to follow your company’s HR policies regarding employee conduct in those cases. But many times, we’ll find that the employee doesn’t have health insurance and can’t afford to see a doctor to get a note, in which case your HR team can help them find affordable or free options in their area.

Best Read:

Apparently, Norovirus Is Immune to Hand Sanitizer. So How Can You Protect Yourself From the Infamous Stomach Bug?

Share this article:

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.