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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, May 10th

Hospitalizations up 20%, plus Strep & COVID at the same time?

COVID Recap & Health News:

  • Hospital admissions are ticking back up, almost 20% in the past two weeks. (ABC)
  • Omicron patients spread more virus particles than those with Delta. (CIDRAP)
  • A new study confirms that a 4th mRNA dose does improve protection against COVID. (Bloomberg)
  • The White House is warning of surges this coming winter, hoping to encourage preventative measures before the third straight year of winter surges. (Politico)
  • Researchers continue to look into those who have managed to avoid COVID for this long, hoping to find clues about how it works and how to prevent infection. (Washington Post)
  • Poor countries are struggling to get the antiviral pills they need, as richer nations stockpile them. Experts fear a repeat of the unequal distribution of care during the AIDS crisis. (NY Times)
  • Dogs can sniff out COVID infections with surprising accuracy. (CIDRAP)
  • Stephen Colbert, who returned last week to taping his late night show after contracting COVID, had to cancel shows this week due to a “recurrence” of the virus. (LA Times)
  • Investigators are looking into the deaths of American tourists in the Bahamas, who died after seeking medical treatment for GI symptoms. (USA Today)
  • The kids’ hepatitis outbreak is now up to 109 cases in 25 US states, and continues to grow worldwide. No cause has been identified yet, though a common adenovirus is the leading suspect. (NY Times)

Mental Health News:

May is Mental Health Awareness month. We’re proud to join the movement to bring more awareness to mental health issues that are facing your employees and communities.

  • Pediatricians are holding the front lines of a mental health crisis in the US, as child psychiatrists are backed up for months, but kids in crisis can’t wait. (NY Times)
  • And due to a shortage of inpatient treatment options, hundreds of suicidal teens spend days and even weeks sleeping in emergency departments. (NY Times)
  • A national addiction treatment locator launched three years ago has outdated information, and finding treatment is still a struggle for those who need it. (KHN)
  • It’s getting harder to find Spanish-language mental health support in the U.S. (US News)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Should we be encouraging employees who test positive to seek antiviral treatment?

Antiviral treatment is an incredibly effective tool that can shorten the duration and lessen the severity of illness in anyone, regardless of their vaccination status. It must be taken in the first five days after symptom onset, and usually needs a positive test and a prescription to get it, so it can take a few days to get it even if you decide early on that you want the oral pill. In that sense, we do think it’s a great idea to educate your employees on the fact that oral pills are available, and to ask their doctor or the place where they go to get tested about the antiviral option. That said, it’s very much a decision between a patient and their doctor. Some doctors like to wait until there’s an indication that someone might be severely ill, others like to get out ahead of it. And on top of all that, we’re hearing that it can actually be very hard to get – sometimes requiring people to leave their own town to find a pharmacy that has oral pills in stock. All in all, we think it’s a good idea to encourage employees to discuss the possibility of antiviral medication with their doctor, to at least inform them that it’s something they can talk about and an option that may be right for them if their doctor agrees.

We seem to have a large number of employees testing positive for Strep. Can they have Strep and COVID? What about Strep and the flu?

Unfortunately, you can have strep along with other illnesses, including documented cases of people who have both strep and COVID, though it’s very rare. Strep is very common in those under 40, with the highest incidence occurring in kids aged 5-15. Complicating things is the fact that sore throat is a more common symptom with the latest COVID variants, meaning that it can be hard to tell the difference between the two illnesses. It’s also possible to get both strep and the flu - because Strep is bacterial and Flu and COVID are viral, it’s actually not uncommon to get both because one weakens the immune system so that you’re more susceptible to the other. Most doctor’s offices or hospitals will test someone with sore throat as a major symptom for strep, flu, and COVID, so it should be a relatively quick turnaround to find out which one you have.

We’re suddenly hearing rumors of people stockpiling or hoarding antivirals. Is that true?

We’ve also heard some rumors of people stockpiling antiviral oral medications for COVID, though the extent of it is unclear. You need a prescription and a positive COVID test in order to get the pills, so the logistics of companies or individuals stockpiling in large numbers would be extremely challenging. That said, we know that countries and even local governments, who can buy the medications in bulk to prepare for public health needs, are indeed stockpiling it, and some locations have more available than others. During the swine flu outbreak, individuals and companies stockpiled Tamiflu, but many experts criticized that.

I retested and the positive line is even darker than when I initially tested positive? Does that mean my viral load is higher? Does it mean I'm still contagious?

It’s possible that the faintness or darkness of the line on your rapid COVID test (and the speed at which it shows up) are indicative of the amount of viral load you have in your nose at the time, but that’s not the whole story. At the end of the day, these tests were not designed to tell us how infectious you are, only if you’re infectious at all. The reason for that is simple - we still don’t really know just how much virus someone needs in order to infect others. Tests aren’t designed to show us just how much viral load you have since that’s not actionable information. If your test has any line at all - faint or not - you should consider yourself contagious, unless it’s been a full 10 days since your symptoms first started, and your symptoms have significantly improved, with no fever for at least 24 hours. If you’re still within the 10 days and testing positive with a dark line, consider yourself contagious and isolate appropriately.

Best Read:

'Better Than Omicron' Is Still Pretty Bad - The Atlantic

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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.