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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, November 2nd

OSHA guidelines this week? 📆 Which rapid test is best?

COVID Recap:

  • The Biden administration will release the highly anticipated details of a federal vaccine mandate for private employers “in coming days,” the Department of Labor said Monday. Publication in the Federal Register is the next step. (NY Times)
  • Two milestones this week - one grim and one extraordinary.  More than 5 million people have died from COVID worldwide.  But, more than 7 billion doses of vaccine have been administered across the world. (JHU)
  • It’s official: the FDA granted an EUA to the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11 years old. It will likely be officially recommended by the CDC later today, and roll out will start next week. (STAT)
  • But the FDA needs more time before it clears Moderna for teens aged 12-17, based on the small but present risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. (Moderna)
  • The CDC found immunity from vaccines is more consistent than immunity from COVID  infection, but both last at least six months. (Washington Post)
  • The potentially faster spreading Delta+ variant has now been detected in 8 states. (CBS)
  • Good news that mild COVID doesn’t appear to be linked to cardiac complications. (Science Direct)
  • Two counties in the SF Bay Area saw a “significant” increase in COVID after lifting their indoor mask mandates. (SF Gate)
  • Shanghai Disneyland was shut down, and nearly 34,000 people tested - after detecting a single case. (NPR)
  • For the second time, the US Supreme Court declined to  block Maine’s healthcare worker vaccine mandate.  (SHRM)
  • It's now confirmed that a pet owner who had COVID infected both his dog and cat. (News-Medical)

Today’s Health News:

  • Three deaths linked to the Hepatitis A outbreak associated with a single sick restaurant worker in Roanoke, VA  make it one of the deadliest Hep A outbreaks in foodservice ever.  (Roanoke News)
  • A salmonella outbreak tied to chicken has sickened thousands over the years. The USDA and the companies know about it, but contaminated poultry continues to be sold. (ProPublica)
  • Syphilis cases are spiking and babies are dying, but it’s a completely preventable disease. It's a sign of public health’s funding crisis.  (ProPublica)
  • There’s a new blood test that can detect more than fifty kinds of cancers.  It’s a game changer.  (Yahoo)

Best Questions:

Do breakthrough infections mean the vaccines aren’t working?

No! The vaccines are actually working extremely well doing what matters most - preventing hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated. That doesn’t mean they prevent all infections, but they do reduce them. If you are COVID+, the chance that your unvaccinated contacts get sick is about 38% on average - though that will be different for people who live in the same house compared to a quick encounter on the street , for example. But your unvaccinated contacts are only about 25% likely to get sick from their close contact with you. So, vaccines actually do reduce the overall chance that you get COVID, but their real value is in making COVID less severe, so that you don’t die or need to be hospitalized from it.

If I haven’t gotten COVID until now, why should I bother getting vaccinated?

COVID is still here, and it’s still killing people. Even people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, even people without serious underlying medical conditions. You’ve made it this far without getting COVID - but most of that time had serious lockdowns, social distancing, and mask use that helped protect you. Now, things are opening up and those protective measures aren’t there to keep you safe. If you’re unvaccinated, you’re 5x more likely to catch COVID right now than you would be if you got the shot, and 29x more likely to need to be hospitalized if you do get COVID. Getting vaccinated reduces your chances of catching COVID at all, and is the best way to ensure you don’t die from COVID. Plus, it reduces the chances that you spread COVID to those around you that are at higher risk, like kids, cancer patients, and grandparents.

What makes a good rapid antigen test?

We wish supply in the US was robust enough that you could be seriously discerning about which rapid antigen tests you use, but the reality is that availability for rapid tests is unreliable, at best.  If possible, you want a larger supply to do the same test weekly, so employees only need to be trained once on how to use them. Minimally, your test must be approved for emergency use by the FDA - finding the quantity needed is another story. If you do have a choice between a few options, look for ones that have the shortest processing time (some are as quick as 10 minutes, others as long as 30). You’ll also want to find one with good instructions that are easy to follow - some are so complicated that we’ve helped our clients type up clearer instructions to send out with the tests. Ultimately, your ability to get your hands on enough tests at a reasonable price is the deciding factor most people will rely on.

Do you have any advice about what we should be thinking about re: vaccine exemptions?

This is a legal and HR question, but our clients who have good reasonable accommodation requests and approval processes in place should have the easiest time ramping up for vaccine exemptions.  Early word is that although employees may be charged for weekly testing if they are unvaccinated by choice, employers will likely be required to pay for weekly testing for those who have exemptions.  

If someone has had COVID already, why do they need a vaccine now? Why aren’t they excluded from vaccine mandates?

This is a common question asked by unvaccinated people who technically aren’t anti-vaccine. Recent studies show that immunity from vaccination was stronger and more consistent than immunity from COVID, which only lasts about six months.  It’s possible that future guidance will allow for a grace period after illness, just like current guidance allows you to avoid quarantine if you’ve tested positive for COVID in the last 90 days.  But the most recent studies clearly demonstrate that vaccination-based immunity is stronger, more consistent, and lasts longer than immunity from illness.

Best Read:

Pandemic to endemic: How the world can learn to live with COVID-19


Best Laugh:

If we’d seen this on Friday, it would have been our best laugh then… but since we’re all still eating Halloween candy...


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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.