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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, March 29

FDA approved 2nd booster for those 50+ today

ZHH News:

Don’t miss our upcoming webinar!

Wednesday, April 13

3:00 - 4:00 Eastern Time

Managing Sick Employees In Today's Staffing Crisis

In the midst of a staffing crisis, managers can be your best defense or worst enemies when it comes to sick employees. Between norovirus, COVID, allergies, and mental health issues, managers play a big part in deciding who works, who stays home, and for how long. We'll discuss tools managers need to manage call outs, resources for employees and managers alike that can help reduce health-related staffing issues, and how to mitigate the impact of sick calls on the ongoing staffing crisis.

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COVID Recap:

  • The FDA just approved a second booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna for anyone 50+ or immunocompromised. (FDA)
  • As pandemic funding starts to dry up, those who are uninsured will start paying the price. (NPR)
  • Contact tracing helped prevent 1.4 million COVID infections in just 60 days in  winter 2020-2021. (CIDRAP)
  • Virus deaths have dropped to the lowest point since the summer - under 800 per day. (NY Times)
  • COVID and the flu are an especially dangerous pair. Those who are infected with both at the same time are 4x likelier to need a ventilator and 2.5x more likely to die than if they had COVID alone. (CIDRAP)
  • There are very rare reports of COVID vaccines being linked to tinnitus, or ringing of the ears - also a rare side effect of the virus itself. The WHO is investigating. (NBC)
  • Those who got a single J&J shot were twice as likely to die of COVID than those who got Pfizer or Moderna, but still 4x less likely to die of COVID than someone unvaccinated. (CBS)
  • Researchers are studying the similarities between COVID “brain fog”, “chemo brain” and Alzheimers, hopefully opening the door for new paths to treatment. (Washington Post)
  • At-home test use more than tripled between the Delta and Omicron surges. (MMWR)

Today’s Health News:

  • LA County is warning customers of a popular juice bar about Hep A exposure and advising vaccination.  (ABC)
  • Norovirus continues to march across North Carolina, with Fort Bragg hard hit. (WRAL)
  • Late flu activity is increasing across the US this week, though numbers are still lower than previous years. (CDC)
  • A highly infectious respiratory flu-like dog virus is moving quickly across Florida. (CBS)

Best Questions:

What should I do if I test positive while I’m on vacation?

This is, unfortunately, the question of the week for us. We’ve heard from folks stuck in at least four different countries and all over the U.S., who tested positive during their vacation. The reality is, if you’re not very sick, the best thing to do is wait it out in your hotel or rental house. Most hotels are pros at handling this, by now, and will help get you food, medication, and anything else you need. If you start to develop concerning or severe symptoms, we recommend a medical evacuation to get you safely back to the US for medical care if you’re in a country with subpar medical facilities or language barriers. Before you go, it’s worth checking out some new COVID-specific travel insurance that’s popped up, which can help pay for your quarantine in a hotel if you end up needing it. Most major travel insurance policies will pay for an evacuation if it’s deemed medically necessary, which is pretty much the only way to leave your vacation spot if you’re already infectious and confirmed positive. Commercial flights - where you could easily infect those around you at the airport and on the plane - should be off limits until you meet the criteria for ending your self-isolation.

How do COVID antiviral drugs work, and when should someone take them?

Antiviral pills have been around for a long time, though they still only exist for a few viruses, including the flu. Basically, they work by stopping the virus from being able to multiply too much in your body. They’re very effective at preventing hospitalization and deaths if they’re taken within a few days of symptom onset. That part is key - they must be taken early to be effective. If you test positive for COVID, have symptoms, and have anything that makes you high risk for severe COVID (age 65+, obesity, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and many other conditions), you’re likely eligible for taking antivirals, as long as it’s the first few days after your symptoms started. It’s important to get tested for COVID and talk to a doctor in the first day or two of symptoms to be eligible to take these drugs - you have to test positive to get the prescription, and you must start taking the drug within the first five days after your symptoms start.

Do I still need to get vaccinated after taking an antiviral drug?

This question gets asked a lot after people find out that antiviral drugs reduce hospitalization and deaths in those who are unvaccinated. But antiviral drugs are NOT a substitute for vaccination. They can’t prevent you from getting sick - and remember that even mild COVID cases regularly lead to long COVID. Plus, a lot of things have to go right for you to be able to use them (you have to notice symptoms, get tested, receive a positive result, get a prescription and start taking the pills within just a few days!). Even with an antiviral, you still have COVID and are contagious - you’ll need to isolate and your close contacts will need to quarantine. Antivirals are a good tool to have if you’re already sick, but they don’t take the place of vaccines in any way. Vaccines are safe, effective, and reduce your chances of getting sick in the first place.  

What’s the deal with this new BA.2 wave? Should we still be expecting a surge?

Unfortunately, yes - we should still expect a new wave, and it’s actually likely already here - though whether it’s a full fledged surge or just a bump in cases still remains to be seen. When we try to predict what might happen, we can look to other countries to see what’s happened there. In Denmark, the Netherlands, and Austria, case counts have spiked due to BA.2, which has taken over there as it’s poised to here. But in other places, like India and Sweden, BA.2 has become the dominant strain there without a major spike in cases, so exactly what will happen here in the U.S. is still TBD. We do have the advantage of the fact that a huge percentage of our population recently caught the Omicron variant that BA.2 mutated from, so there may be some protection there. That said, we’re already seeing cases rise in Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and other areas, and wastewater surveillance continues to show an increase in virus levels in communities across the country. We’re continuing to prepare for a bump in case counts, while remaining hopeful that we can keep it relatively low. The best way to prevent a full on surge is to get everyone boosted - more than half of the US population still hasn’t gotten their first booster dose. If we can work on increasing boosters, it would go a long way in keeping the next surge more of a bump than a spike.

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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.