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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, November 9th

Should employers wait while the vaccine mandate is blocked?

COVID Recap:

  • The new OSHA mandate has been temporarily blocked in court, but the DOJ has asked the federal appeals court to lift the temporary order. (CNN)
  • And the Surgeon General says the administration is “prepared to defend” the vaccine mandate amid legal challenges. (NY Times)
  • The US border is now open to fully vaccinated travelers with a negative COVID test, from a long list of countries including Canada, Mexico, and most of Europe. (NPR)
  • More than 1300 cases of COVID have been reported on cruise ships since June 26th. (Washington Post)
  • Nearly 80% of Americans believe at least one COVID falsehood or aren’t sure if it’s true. (KFF)
  • The latest source of misinformation? Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. He tested positive for COVID and confirmed that he’s both unvaccinated and taking the animal parasite medication ivermectin, at the advice of a podcaster. Ivermectin is not an effective treatment for COVID. (CBS)
  • On the other hand, Big Bird announced he’s vaccinated this weekend! But not without pushback. (NPR)
  • Officials at a Vermont college are blaming halloween parties for a COVID outbreak. (NY Times)
  • A Federal court in Texas ruled that United Airlines can put employees with vaccine exemptions on unpaid leave (for now). (NPR)
  • LA joined New York and San Francisco yesterday in requiring proof of vaccination for entering indoor establishments like restaurants, malls, theaters, and salons. Thousands gathered in protest yesterday, as well.  (LA Times)
  • Pfizer will likely apply as early as this week for booster authorization for all Americans 18+. (Washington Post)
  • The WHO is warning of a shortage of 1-2 billion COVID vaccine syringes.  (Yahoo)
  • Singapore announced it will no longer pay for healthcare for the unvaccinated. (NPR)
  • And some employers are removing death benefits for the unvaccinated. (KHN)

Today’s Health News:

  • There’s another new coronavirus in town - likely spread from dogs - detected in people in Malaysia and Haiti. It’s not as severe as the virus that causes COVID, but can cause pneumonia in kids, and scientists are studying it now to help prevent and treat it. (NPR)
  • The UK is well on its way to curing cervical cancer.  The US isn’t even close. (STAT)
  • New Hampshire is reporting multiple cases of the mosquito-borne Jamestown Canyon virus, which while generally moderate can be severe and even fatal. (CIDRAP)

Best Questions:

Should we hold on preparing for the OSHA mandate since it’s temporarily blocked in court?

While a federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the OSHA vaccine or testing mandate, the DOJ has asked them to lift the temporary stay. There will likely be many more legal challenges to the mandate, but most legal experts recommend that employers should prepare to implement the OSHA requirements in case the stay is lifted. OSHA can issue citations and penalties to companies that drag their feet- and it will likely take even the most prepared companies the better part of November to be ready for the December 5th requirements. See the Best Read below for more on this topic.

Are there saliva tests for COVID? Can we use those instead of nasal swabs for easier testing?

There are plenty of FDA-approved saliva tests, though actually finding them at a decent price may be harder said than done. But an August review by JAMA of the current studies out there showed that while saliva tests are accurate and comparable to nasal swabs in symptomatic people, they were consistently under 60% for catching positive cases in asymptomatic people. That's significantly lower than we're seeing for even rapid at-home nasal swabs. The JAMA study authors recommended against using saliva tests for asymptomatic testing.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, is there messaging or other steps we can take to help avoid a post-holiday outbreak?

Post-holiday outbreaks are something our clinical team sees regularly - and it was particularly bad last year. First, reinforce your COVID mitigation policies, like masking, handwashing, and staying home sick. You can audit your employee wellness checks before and during the holidays, to make sure that all of your employees and locations are doing symptom surveys with regularity. Most clients find a few specific locations and managers who aren’t implementing daily employee wellness checks consistently - starting there is a great way to help prevent post-holiday outbreaks by keeping sick employees home before they can spread illness to their coworkers. It’s also a good time to remind employees to get themselves and their families vaccinated before traveling or getting together for the holidays! Regular reminders communicating that the risk is increased after holiday gatherings can go a long way.

Are other employers considering dropping mask requirements for vaccinated people as an incentive to get shots?

Yes. While some employees being masked and others unmasked raises some operational issues, ditching the mask is a huge incentive for many employees to get vaccinated.  So many of our clients are looking at this and figuring out how to communicate to employees, co-workers and customers why some employees are masked and others aren’t.  They’re also gearing up for guests requesting either a masked or unmasked server or salesperson.  We never said any of this was going to be easy!

Best Read:

Employers Should Plan for Vaccine-or-Testing Rule While Litigation Ensues

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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.