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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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.
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.
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.
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.