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The Executive Summary - Friday, October 8th

Rapid test shortage, protestors tear down testing site, and how to talk vax safety.

New Podcast Episode - Out Today!

Handwashing and sanitizing has always been the most important best-practice any business could do to keep employees and customers healthy, but since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Gojo, the makers of Purell and many other sanitizing products, have found themselves at the epicenter of outbreak prevention. Today, Roslyn talks with Dr. Chip Manuel, Gojo's Food Safety Science Advisor about what it's been like for Gojo throughout this pandemic and how we should all think about sanitizing in the future.

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts!

COVID Recap:

  • A harrowing stat to start us off, and a reminder that COVID is still deadly serious: One in 500 children in the US has been orphaned by COVID. (CDC)
  • Anti-vaccine protestors tore down a testing site in New York City. (The Hill)
  • France will charge the unvaccinated for COVID tests in an attempt to encourage vaccination. (NY Times)
  • Add LA to the list of cities requiring proof of vaccination for indoor patrons. It’s a great example of how confusing county and city ordinances can be.  (LA Times)
  • Rapid tests continue to be in very short supply and are flying off the shelves as soon as they come into stock. (Yahoo)
  • The White House will spend an additional billion dollars on at-home rapid tests. (NPR)
  • One Colorado town has 99.9% of eligible people vaccinated - but the pandemic is still happening there, too - with kids under 12 and out-of-town visitors fueling outbreaks. (KHN)
  • The Pentagon has required that all civilian employees get vaccinated by November 22nd, but still has no system to verify who’s gotten the shot. Getting to full vaccination will be a huge logistical lift.  (Roll Call)
  • The risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, is higher in males age 16-29 after a second dose of mRNA vaccine. The overall risk is still very low, and the risk associated with vaccination is much lower than the risk of heart problems due to actually getting COVID, but some countries are trying out a single dose in kids.  (NY Times)
  • Colder winter months might mean another surge in the virus - getting more people vaccinated (including, hopefully, kids) will be key to preventing another winter surge like last year’s. (NY Times)
  • It appears that Marijuana could make breakthrough cases more likely - and surprisingly more so than the use of other drugs. (Newsweek)
  • How long someone has natural immunity after a COVID infection is still not clear. Legal challenges to vaccine mandates due to natural protection are on the rise, as scientists race to figure out what level of antibodies is protective. (KHN)

Today’s Health News:

  • There is growing concern that anti-vaxxers may fuel a spike in childhood diseases that could be “horrific”.  (Newsweek)
  • C. Diff, a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and kills 15,000 people per year, is usually associated with hospitals, but a new study shows that it’s all over our environment - even on the bottom of our shoes. (IDSA)
  • The CDC has finished it’s investigation into this past summer’s 31-person Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak, linked to a specific brand of pre-packaged salad. (CDC)
  • Saudi Arabia is reporting its 13th MERS case of the year (remember other coronaviruses?). This one is a primary case, meaning he likely contracted it from contact with camels. (CIDRAP)
  • The WHO recommends broad rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine. This is huge news - nearly 400,000 people died in 2019 alone from malaria, more than half children. (STAT)
  • The first lawsuit was filed in the Roanoke Hepatitis A outbreak.  A woman who got sick with Hep A after allegedly eating at Famous Anthony’s wants $500K in damages.  The case count remains at 14. (WSLS)

Best Questions:

Our employee tested positive on a rapid Ellume test, which is now recalled over false positives. What should we do? 

This past week, Ellume recalled about 200,000 at-home rapid test kits due to a high incidence of false positive results (see a list of lot numbers here). It’s important to note that false positives are very rare in normal tests - even rapid and at-home tests - which is why this was such a big issue. If you think an Ellume test might have been a false positive, we recommend following up with a more-accurate PCR test, or better yet two, a few days apart. If both are negative, you might be in the rare (and lucky) group that had a false positive from the recalled test. Still, you should consult your primary care doctor and definitely stay home if you have symptoms.  And remember, if it’s not one of the recalled at-home Ellume brand tests, any other positive test (even rapid, at-home tests) should be considered a true positive and you should take the necessary precautions, since the rates of false positives on normally functioning rapid and PCR tests are incredibly low. 

Do you have some suggestions for messaging on vaccine safety?

Here are the bullet points we focus on when speaking to employees about vaccinations: 

  • Polio and Measles were eliminated in this country successfully with vaccines. 
  • We ended a flu pandemic in 1918 with flu shots.  
  • This vaccine went through the approval process that every other vaccine does - just way more efficiently.   
  • More than 3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given worldwide with minimal side effects.  
  • The vaccine is much, much safer than the risk of getting sick with COVID - especially as hospitals fill up. 

We thought that getting everyone vaccinated would allow us to return to normal, but we’re seeing many breakthrough infections.  Were we wrong about vaccinations being so vital to return to normal - or at least at the office?

The vaccines are working, even with breakthrough infections.  Vaccinated employees are not getting very sick, being hospitalized or admitted to ICUs, needing respirators, or dying.   And employees who are vaccinated don’t need to be excluded for close contact with COVID positive people. Finally, and critically important, the newest research shows us that vaccinated people, even if COVID positive, are significantly less likely to infect others. 

The bottom line is that COVID is likely now endemic and vaccines will move us to the next stage, which will likely be on-going surveillance.

What does it mean if COVID becomes ‘endemic’?   How will we know?

Generally, a disease becomes endemic when it’s predictable, stable and accurately surveillable.   Most epidemiologists believe we’re at least a year away from that point with COVID.  Between low vaccination rates worldwide, newly emerging variants, and not having established great testing programs for reasonably accurate surveillance, we’ve got a ways to go.  We’re expanding testing rapidly over the next few months, but we’re not at a point where everyone gets tested regularly, which may be what’s required. 

Best Read:

Is America Prepared for the Pandemic After COVID-19?

Best Laugh:

Source: XKCD

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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.