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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, November 23rd

Surging cases in US kids and 2 million travelers a day lead to holiday surge concerns

COVID Recap:

  • In a sobering statistic, US COVID deaths to date in 2022 have surpassed 2021.  (Medscape)
  • Cases in the US are surging ahead of the holidays, with a 32% increase in kids’ cases in the past two weeks. (NY Times)
  • Meanwhile, US travelers will take to the air this week, with more than 2 million people flying each day this week. (TIME)
  • There is a new FDA EUA approved at-home test with results in one hour that are nearly as accurate and reliable as a PCR - but there’s a catch. The testing “hub” costs $39 and each test runs $49.  (Axios)
  • Remember chicken pox parties?  A prosecutor in the northern Italian province of Bolzano has opened an investigation after one man died and several others landed in intensive care after they reportedly attended a COVID party to try to get sick. (Independent)
  • Canadian citizens will no longer need COVID tests before returning to Canada from abroad. (Ledger)
  • More than 90% of federal workers received their vaccines by the deadline. (Medscape)
  • A new study shows that antibodies from mild COVID may not last very long. (Reuters)
  • Companies are telling unvaccinated employees to pay more for health insurance. (NPR)
  • New COVID antiviral pills could be a game-changer, but their success will depend on quick and accurate tests, something the US isn’t set up well for right now. Pills must be started early to be effective. (KHN)

Today’s Health News:

  • Cases of the H5N6 bird flu are rising in humans, leading to a new WHO warning about the virus. There have been 26 human cases, but 20 of those are in just the last 5 months. (CIDRAP)
  • The NJ Department of Health has expanded Hepatitis A vaccine recommendations for customers from their Starbucks exposure. (NJ.com)

Best Questions:

Now that everyone is eligible for booster doses, should we require them as part of our vaccination policy?

This was your most frequently asked question this week.  Most employment law attorneys say it’s best to hold off on mandating booster doses for now. The latest CDC guidance differentiates between all adults who may get a booster shot, and certain high-risk people who should get a booster shot or additional dose. That tricky wording, plus the fact that the CDC hasn’t changed the definition of “fully vaccinated” means that for most companies, it doesn’t make sense to mandate boosters. Plus, we’re finding that many people who were excited to get vaccinated in the first place are quick to get boosters, while the real time and effort should be focused on getting vaccine-hesitant folks to get their first shots.

Should employers continue to prepare for the ETS?

This is a legal question and a policy question that falls outside of our clinical expertise. You’ll need to determine your own comfort with risk, and make a decision that works for you. Fisher Phillips, who many of your turn to for guidance on employment law issues, advises that most companies take some behind-the-scenes steps to prepare, without taking major

Recently, the WSJ reported that most companies are moving forward with the expectation that they may need to comply, in part because implementing vaccination tracking for employees is a complex process that can’t be done overnight.  SHRM and other advisors continue to recommend preparing for compliance and that in doing so, you will achieve much of the goal of the ETS, which is to encourage employees to get vaccinated.  

Why does someone who is vaccinated need to self-isolate if they test positive?

Anyone who tests positive for COVID needs to self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status, because testing positive means that the virus was detected in their upper respiratory system (AKA in their nose!). If there’s enough virus to be detected by a nasal swab, there’s enough virus to be coughed, sneezed, breathed, or laughed into the air, and into someone else’s body. So, vaccine or not, if someone tests positive for COVID, they need to isolate for 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or from the date of their positive test if they don’t have any symptoms.

Best Read:  

Why You Can’t Find Cheap At-Home Covid Tests

Best Laugh:

A quick note:

We’ll be off on Friday and back at you next Tuesday with more COVID news.

This year on Thanksgiving we’re acutely aware of the fact that American Indian and Alaska Native people have been disproportionately affected by COVID. We’ve given to the First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and encourage you to do the same, or to reach out to local indigenous groups in your area to find out how you can support.

Safe travels, and have a great week.

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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.