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The Executive Summary - Tuesday, October 5th

Vaccine tracking, more boosters & cases finally declining?

COVID Recap:

  • We’ve hit another “painful” milestone of 700,000 COVID deaths in the U.S. (White House)
  • But there’s some hope: we’re seeing cases start to decline in the past month. Some experts note an emerging pattern of two months rising and then two month falling cases. But that’s not always the case, and colder weather may lead to another spike in case counts. (NY Times)
  • The FDA authorized a new rapid at-home test which should add nearly 100 million new tests to the marketplace, quickly helping alleviate the short supply. (The Hill)
  • American, Alaska Airlines and Jetblue have announced vaccine mandates. (NPR)
  • Judging ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs is a tricky situation for employers with vaccine mandates. (NPR)
  • A former NBA star was arrested in Hawaii for using fake COVID test results to enter the state. Hawaii has some of the strictest testing requirements for visitors and unvaccinated workers. (NBC)
  • People who are vaccinated against COVID are less likely to spread the virus even if they become infected, a new study finds, adding to a growing body of evidence that vaccines can reduce transmission of the delta variant.  (NBC)
  • It appears that COVID is getting better at airborne transmission - good news for the virus, bad news for us. (NY Times)
  • There are concerns that the lower dosing of the Pfizer vaccine, which both helped to reduce side effects and get it to market quicker, may be having some major consequences now - from the need to provide booster doses sooner to lower effectiveness against variants.  (The Atlantic)
  • J&J asked the FDA to authorize boosters this morning. The FDA will discuss Moderna and J&J boosters on October 14th, and Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 5-12 on October 26th. (FDA)
  • “Get a fan, and get vaccinated,” says the CDC in their holiday tips. Good ventilation can help with indoor transmission, but getting the shot is the best protection! (NPR)
  • Nearly 200,000 Ellume rapid at-home tests were recalled for false positives. (NY Times)

Today’s Health News:

  • Dozens of students at Rochester Institute of Technology have norovirus.  This is the second large college outbreak in the last week. (WHAM)
  • The gene-editing tool, CRISPR, is helping treat a rare vision disorder that causes blindness and has incredible potential for curing other diseases.  (NPR)
  • While RSV is known as a kids’ respiratory virus, it can be very serious and lead to hospitalizations and death in older adults (who often get it from their grandkids).  A new vaccine is being tested that’s highly effective in preventing it in adults. (MedPage Today)
  • Power outages in Puerto Rico put people who depend on power for insulin and respiratory therapies in serious danger. (AP)

Best Questions:

If employees are hesitant to upload their vaccine cards, is there an alternative that also ensures we have the proof of vaccination that we’ll likely need?

While we still don’t know what proof of vaccination the OSHA ETS will require, we have several clients who have drafted or are drafting a manager attestation.  The employee shows the card to their manager and then the manager signs an attestation that they’ve seen the card and uploads a picture of the attestation instead of the picture of the card.  This process will require legal review once we’ve seen the guidance.

Right now, we’re just tracking who is fully vaccinated.  Will we need to know who has started the vaccination process (but isn’t yet fully vaccinated)?

We don’t know if OHSA’s ETS will more closely mirror NYC or elsewhere.  NYC currently requires only one dose for their vaccine mandate. But that appears to be the exception rather than the rule and there is no science to back it up as an effective prevention method.

We’re proceeding with the assumption that full vaccination will mean  two doses for the mRNA vaccines and one dose for J&J, plus a two week waiting period for it to take effect.  There is, however, a reason to know if someone has received their first dose as you plan for your weekly testing needs and calculate your supplies and costs.  We are still seeing a very high rate of completion once a single dose is given - thanks in large part to scheduling Dose 2 before leaving after Dose 1.

A fully vaccinated employee has a family member with COVID, and now has symptoms themself. If they test negative, can they return to work sooner than 10 days?

If the employee has symptoms to warrant a 10 day exclusion, even if they’re vaccinated, they must stay out the full time, regardless of a negative test result. Unfortunately, the simplest explanation here is also the most likely: they probably have a breakthrough case. So knowing that they have been exposed to someone COVID+, and that they have symptoms, we wouldn’t recommend allowing them to return any sooner than 10 days after their symptoms first started, since we know that fully vaccinated people with breakthrough cases are still spreading the virus.

An employee who is set to return to work after 10 days of quarantine just notified us that his young son tested positive. Does he now need to quarantine for 10 more days?

If the employee tested positive and has been excluded for at least ten days and meets the criteria to return to work, then he would not need to be excluded again.  If he was not tested or never tested positive for COVID, then unfortunately, he would need to quarantine for ten more days - or even longer (up to 20 days from the son’s symptom onset) if he is unable to isolate because he’s caring for his son, for example. Although testing for symptoms is rarely required, this does explain why it can be extremely helpful.  Without a positive test on record, he could be excluded again repeatedly while a positive test would prevent a need for exclusion due to close contact for 90 days.

Best Read:

COVID-19 herd immunity is a mirage. Here's how the virus could become 'manageable' instead.

Best Laugh:

Going back to the office - video

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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.