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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, May 9th

Free at-home COVID tests end Thursday

Health News:

  • TB cases in toddlers rose a whopping 26% in 2022. (Washington Post)
  • 57% of raw stuffed chicken products from homes and stores contained Salmonella. (CIDRAP)
  • Colorado is ending COVID exposure phone notifications for iPhone users. (Colorado Sun)
  • There are only a few days left to get free federal COVID tests, but California has added 6 more months of guaranteed coverage and reimbursement from insurance. (Bay Area News Group)
  • A new study links international travel with increased risk of drug-resistant Salmonella. (CIDRAP)
  • Just a single dose of the HPV vaccine is highly effective against infections for over three years, potentially lowering costs and extending supplies. (NY Times)
  • Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, unexpectedly resigned, creating uncertainty among health officials. (Politico)
  • After a strange flu-like illness that left one kindergartner dead, an elementary school in Detroit will reopen this week after deep cleaning. (WXYZ 7)
  • A child in Maine tested positive for Measles, the first case there since 2019. (CNN)
  • Chicago has seen a recent uptick of mpox, and concerns have been raised about a summer surge. (NBC)
  • At least 22 people were sickened with norovirus after eating in the cafeteria at T-mobile’s headquarters in the Seattle area last week. (KIRO)

Mental Health News:

  • Jordan Neely’s killing on a New York City subway has sparked discussion around mental health help for people without housing. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • More Americans say that financial problems are hurting their mental health. (CBS)
  • Mental illness in your 20s and 30s can lead to a greater chance of heart attack and stroke. (CNN)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Will COVID tests cost money after the federal public health emergency ends on Thursday?

Yes. Starting on May 11th, there will be major changes in who covers the cost of COVID tests, vaccines, and treatment. Before, those with insurance could have up to eight free at-home rapid tests per month. Starting this week, many major insurers are no longer covering at-home tests, including “most plans” under Cigna, Aetna, and United Healthcare. California has extended free tests (along with vaccine and treatment) for another six months, until November 11th, so insurance companies are required to cover tests in CA until then. For now, people can still order free tests online at covid.gov/tests, but this will likely end when supplies run out. If you’re out of tests at home, it might be a good idea to go buy them before Thursday!

We know that some of our employees are using drugs. Can we offer fentanyl test strips to help them stay safe?

In a recent study, nearly one in five restaurant employees had used drugs in the past month. In 2017, Delaware did a survey of residents who died of overdose deaths, and a full 10% worked in restaurants, the highest incidence of any one industry by far. Offering fentanyl test strips for free to employees can help prevent accidental overdoses from drugs that are laced with fentanyl. You must check with your legal team before offering these - in some states, they’re considered “drug paraphernalia,” though this has been changing lately as states respond to the increase in OD deaths. They are legal in the majority of US states and D.C., so we encourage you to consult with your legal team and consider offering them to your staff if you’re interested.

What are the chances of another variant-caused surge like we saw last year with Omicron?

There’s about a one in five chance (or 20%) that in the next two years we see another wave of illness caused by a new variant that will be similar in scope to the Omicron surge we saw last winter. These stats come from a group of experts who presented to the White House as they planned for Wednesday’s end to the national public health emergency. So, it’s not exactly likely, but it’s certainly something that businesses and health officials need to prepare for.

What should we do to prepare for the 1 in 5 possibility of another big COVID surge?

Create a game plan that includes helping employees get tests (which won’t be free anymore), a sick call system that can scale up to daily wellness checks when there’s an outbreak at a specific location, and guidelines that help managers make the call about when to scale back due to staffing shortages. If you changed your hours or switched to take-out only during the last surge, for example, now’s the time to codify what worked (and what didn’t) so that managers can learn from that experience and skip right to what works best for your company.

Best Read:

A frightening virus is killing a massive number of wild birds | Vox

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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.