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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, November 16

Legal lottery tonight will determine the vaccine mandate's future - or part of it...

COVID Recap:

  • The fate of the new OSHA vaccine mandate is in part up to a lottery, likely later this afternoon, that will determine which federal appeals court hears the challenge to the mandate. (NPR)
  • Meanwhile, in FL, lawmakers are meeting in a special session to discuss penalizing employers who mandate vaccination. (Reuters)
  • New York City joined AR, CO, CA, and NM in allowing any adult to get a booster shot. (Fortune)
  • NYC sanitation workers have been suspended without pay after showing fake vaccination cards. (ABC)
  • Nearly 100 doctors in Alaska have signed a letter to the state medical board asking for them to investigate doctors spreading COVID misinformation. (AP)
  • Pfizer will allow a cheap, generic version of it’s COVID pill to be sold in poor countries. (NY Times)
  • Meanwhile, it’s asking the FDA to authorize the pill in the US for high risk, unvaccinated people. (NY Times)
  • Automated twice-daily texts to COVID patients after they left the hospital reduced the death rate by a whopping 68% in a recent study, saving two lives a week. The simple intervention connected them to real nurses if they reported severe symptoms. (CIDRAP)
  • Amazon settled a lawsuit over notifying warehouse workers of COVID cases in the workplace, paying $500,000. (AP)
  • As many of our clients know all too well, school contact tracing and quarantine requirements are all over the map. (KHN)
  • Germany may mandate vaccination or a negative test to ride public transportation. (Reuters)
  • The FDA expanded it’s recall to over 2 million Ellume at-home COVID tests over false positives in certain batches sold between April and August. (Healthline)

Today’s Health News:

  • A multistate E.coli outbreak was linked to Josie’s Organics brand baby spinach. (CDC)
  • The CDC is investigating a massive flu outbreak at the University of Michigan. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Bird flu outbreaks continue to grow in Europe and Asia. (Axios)
  • As independent pharmacies get pushed to close, millions in the US are being left in “pharmacy deserts,” with difficulty accessing medication. (KHN)

Best Questions:

We’re hearing that the vaccine mandate is likely to be overturned or delayed. What are other clients doing to prepare?

It’s true that the new vaccine mandate is under serious legal scrutiny, and most legal experts expect that even if it’s upheld in the federal appeals court in the next few weeks, it may face additional legal challenges in the future that could lead to delays. But the White House says that employers should prepare for the December 5th deadline that requires employers to gather proof of vaccination and to implement masks for any unvaccinated employees. Even if it’s delayed, most employers will need as much time as possible to gather employee vaccination status and prepare for testing. Nearly all of the industry leaders we’ve spoken with are preparing, at a minimum, to gather proof of vaccination for all of their employees - which they hope will help nudge employees toward getting vaccinated in general, regardless of its legal necessity.

We noticed an uptick in our COVID cases. Are others seeing that also?

Yes. Case counts (which were dropping) have started to rise in dozens of states, especially in the north. We’re seeing a post-halloween blip and then one that likely follows the cold weather snap across many states. The fifth wave that’s hitting Europe right now, which includes very high case counts, also bodes poorly for the US.

Do we need to track booster doses?

The OSHA ETS doesn’t require that employers track booster doses, but we recommend creating a system where, at the very least, employees can upload new photos of their vaccination card when they get additional booster doses. In the future, if the definition of fully vaccinated chances (as some have suggested it might for J&J, for example), tracking booster doses could be crucial when those changes go into effect. The ZHH / Zedic vaccination tracking system is set up to track boosters to help prepare for these potential changes.

Are rapid antigen test kits dropping in price?

Not as far as we can see. Few of our clients are reporting major volume discounts that they’d expected to see. The bigger issue continues to be availability, and some are seeing some price gouging as a result.

We heard a rumor that the CDC guidance may be changing for those who share a home with a COVID+ person, even for those who are vaccinated.  Are you hearing anything about that?

A few weeks ago there were discussions surrounding the high transmission rate, even among the vaccinated, within the household setting. Sharing a home increases the chances of transmission dramatically, since there’s so much repeated exposure, shared bathrooms and kitchens, and other close contact. While breakthrough cases are still much less common than transmission in unvaccinated people, all transmission is more likely if you’re in the same living space as a COVID+ person. But we haven’t heard much about this in the past two weeks, in part because the CDC’s primary focus has been heavily on the new employer vaccine mandate and vaccinating kids. We’ll continue to keep our ear to the ground on this, but we don’t think we’ll hear anything before Thanksgiving.

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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.