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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, March 8

Is contact tracing still needed? Plus, will Novavax tempt the vax-hesitant?

COVID Recap:

  • This week, the global COVID toll surpassed 6 million deaths. (NY Times)
  • Florida will recommend against COVID vaccination in healthy kids, directly contradicting CDC guidelines and pediatric health experts. (CNN)
  • Hawaii is the only US state that still has an indoor mask mandate in place statewide. (NY Times)
  • Even mild COVID can cause brain damage, still present months after infection. (USA Today)
  • COVID may be linked to a spontaneous psychosis and researchers are trying to figure out why. (TIME)
  • While the supply has increased nationally for a drug that is highly effective in preventing illness for those who are immunocompromised, the demand is highly variable and lots of doses are going unused. (NY Times)
  • Novavax is expected to gain traction in some vaccine holdouts when it’s likely approved by the FDA this month, since it’s based on decades-old protein-based tech and has a fan following online. (Fortune)
  • About half of US households ordered their free COVID tests from the USPS, and you can now order a second shipment. (NBC)
  • Target and Apple have rolled back mask mandates this week, following most major cities and all but one state. (Washington Post)
  • The NFL has been using an unproven measure to get players back on the field faster after testing COVID positive. (KHN)
  • Hong Kong will mandate testing for each of its 7.5 million residents, requiring 3 tests each to try to break out of a massive Omicron surge that has left hospitals and quarantine facilities overwhelmed. (Washington Post)

Today’s Health News:

  • The first cases of human transmission of Seoul Hantavirus occurred from Washington DC rats according to a new report from the CDC. (MMWR)
  • Florida is once again seeing an uptick in Hepatitis A cases (it was a hotspot pre-COVID) and is now offering free Hep A vaccine clinics. (Florida Health)
  • Polio returned to Israel after a 32-year absence, found in a 4-year-old unvaccinated child. (CIDRAP)

Best Questions:

If schools are no longer doing contract tracing, do we need to continue doing it?

As schools and even some public health departments give up on contact tracing, this is a great question. The OSHA General Duty Clause supersedes most other regulatory guidance at this point. So as an employer, you have a higher obligation to maintain a safe workplace. Unvaccinated employees should still be excluded for close contact (whether that contact took place inside or outside the workplace), and CDC guidelines still recommend that fully vaccinated people wear a mask for 10 days after close contact and test on Day 3-5. Beyond that, most employers aren’t doing any additional notification, testing, or guest contact tracing unless required by local regulations.  We will continue to monitor and advise as we hear how others are changing their practices.

If an employee is vaccinated and had COVID in the past, but now has multiple symptoms, should they be excluded?

Yes. Unfortunately, reinfection is relatively common, especially now that Omicron is in the mix. If someone has multiple COVID symptoms, their vaccination status and prior infection don’t change that if they are actively sick, they may be infectious. It’s possible they have something other than COVID, like the flu, or it’s possible that they were reinfected. Either way, they can spread that to others while symptomatic, and should stay home from work.

It’s allergy season again.  Are there questions we can be asking to help determine if it's allergies vs. flu vs. COVID?

Our clinical team asks three key questions for any employees who chat in to our Employee Wellness Check program with possible allergies. First: Do you have a history of allergies? If so, what are your typical allergy symptoms? Second: Do you typically suffer from allergies at this time of year? And third: Are you currently taking allergy medication? If so, does it completely relieve your symptoms?

If an employee doesn’t usually have allergies, if their symptoms differ from their typical allergy symptoms, or if medication usually relieves their allergies but hasn’t this time, those might be indications that their symptoms aren’t actually related to allergies. If their symptoms match their typical allergy symptoms, then we’re not too worried. If their symptoms aren’t new or changed, we don’t recommend keeping an employee home from work.

Although jurisdictions like NYC have rescinded their requirements for guest vaccination, are those same requirements for employee vaccination rescinded?

Requirements to check guest or customer vaccination are entirely separate from requirements for employee vaccination.  You’ll need to check on your specific jurisdictions where you operate, but NYC is a good example where employee vaccination requirements remain in place (with little talk about that changing) while requirements to verify guest vaccinations were dropped.

Best Read:

Next Winter, What If We Test for Even More Viruses?

Donate to World Central Kitchen:

Today, instead of a best laugh, we’re asking you to consider donating to World Central Kitchen, an amazing organization that gets fresh meals to communities in need. Right now, they are working at border crossings all around Ukraine, providing hot meals to refugees.

ZHH has donated to WCK to support the work they are doing in Ukraine, in Madagascar after a devastating cyclone last month, and all across the world during and after disasters. We ask that you consider doing the same if you’re able.

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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.