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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, September 21st

How to handle unvaxxed managers, plus rapid tests under OSHA?

The White House’s new rules are an effort to not only limit the spread of COVID, but to create friction and encourage people to get vaccinated, rather than deal with the logistics of weekly testing. While there are still many details up in the air, we do know that you will be required to test non-vaccinated employees weekly. We’re discussing how it will work, as well as showing you the tools we have to implement this and track it seamlessly.

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  • Other countries have plenty of rapid COVID tests, but the U.S. doesn’t. (New York Times)
  • A joint effort by Mayo Clinic, the Georgia Dept. of Public Health and Delta Airlines showed that one PCR test performed within 72 hours of flying decreased the rate of infected travelers onboard to 0.05%. That’s five people for every 10,000 passengers. (CNBC)
  • NYC schools will increase testing and relax quarantine rules to keep more kids in the classroom. (New York Times)
  • Pfizer says a lower dose of its vaccine prompted a “robust” immune response in kids ages 5-11, and will seek emergency use authorization in the next few weeks. (STAT)
  • Dr. Fauci is urging Americans to wait until they’re eligible for the booster shots. The FDA voted Friday to approve them for Pfizer only in those 65+ and with health conditions that put them at high risk for severe illness. (New York Times)
  • J&J says a new global study proves a second shot given 2 months after the first boosts vaccine efficacy. (STAT)
  • Thailand will try an alternative vaccination method for booster doses - injecting vaccine under the skin and not into muscle - to stretch supply. (Reuters)
  • The US is revoking its travel ban for fully vaccinated visitors from 33 countries, mostly in Europe but will require testing within 72 hours of travel. (Washington Post)
  • A German gas station cashier was killed after asking someone to wear a mask indoors. (Reuters)
  • A booster shot that could protect against multiple variants is now being tested in humans and uses a new vaccine technology that’s very encouraging. (Yahoo News)

Today’s Health News

  • President Biden added measles to the list of illnesses which may require quarantine after several measles cases were identified in people leaving Afghanistan via US military bases.  (Reuters)
  • The CDC is investigating a salmonella outbreak that so far has infected 127 people in 25 states with several restaurant clusters. (CDC)
  • First it was Indiana Jones, now Ant Man 3 has delayed filming while the cast and crew battle Norovirus at Pinewood Studios in the UK. (Irish Times)
  • Four people have died so far this year in Maricopa County, AZ from West Nile Virus. It’s a particularly bad year in part because it’s been so unexpectedly wet there. (ABC News)
  • Millions of sleep apnea patients are struggling after a common CPAP machine was recalled. The manufacturer could take up to a year to replace or repair them all, leaving patients in a lurch and with potentially serious health impacts. (US News)

Best Questions

We’ve heard an upset stomach or nausea is often the first symptom of COVID, then other symptoms follow. Are you hearing the same thing?

Yes. Perhaps related to the Delta variant, we’re seeing common gastrointestinal issues, followed by some other cold-like symptoms, including runny nose, sore throat, congestion, and fever. Any time you have cold or flu-like symptoms paired with GI symptoms, you should be concerned about possible COVID. No one should work sick with GI symptoms - even if it’s just nausea, we recommend keeping someone out for a day to see if anything else develops. With these early COVID symptoms, we usually see something else start to occur within a day or so of when those first stomach issues begin.

What advice do you have for addressing managers who haven’t been vaccinated?

Unvaccinated managers are very concerning for so many reasons.  In addition to their health risks and the higher costs associated with losing them to quarantine, illness, or worse, they are in the role best suited to coach employees to go get vaccinated.  So unvaccinated managers pose greater risk to the business.  Some clients have instituted vaccine mandates for managers. Others are designing training specific to unvaccinated managers.  And finally, others are using

one on one coaching, like we hope they will do for their unvaccinated teams, which has proven effective.  But we agree that addressing unvaccinated managers is key to implementing national vaccine mandates and, more importantly, to getting beyond COVID.

We have a vaccinated employee who previously had COVID. Their whole family just tested COVID+. Can our employee spread it to others, and should he be excluded from work?

This is a common question, and one we’ve answered before but continue to get repeatedly, in part because the answer is confusing. Yes, it’s technically possible for this person to get COVID again and spread it to others. However, it’s very unlikely in this particular case because the person has already had COVID, so they have extra protection on top of their vaccination. The CDC recommendation here is to allow this person to continue to work, but to have them wear a mask for 14 days. They also recommend that this person gets tested 5-7 days after their exposure (or about 5-7 days into sharing a house with these sick folks, in this case). We wouldn’t recommend letting this person work without a mask for 14 days after their last exposure (or the day the last person in their house can end their self-isolation), so they will be masked for quite a while in this scenario.

Do we know if the impending OSHA-mandated testing for unvaccinated employees will include rapid tests?

Early indications are that it will allow a rapid testing option. The President discussed rapid testing at some length in the speech where he announced the mandate and indicated that there will be more rapid tests available at reduced prices.  However, we’ve heard a lot of different things about this guidance that has not yet been drafted.  We know that there is not enough PCR testing capacity for the entire US workforce to be tested with laboratory-based tests.  And that the turnaround time required for most of them adds immense complications.  While we don’t know the definitive answer to this question, most legal and OSHA experts believe that both PCR and rapid tests will be permitted options when the guidance becomes effective.

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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.