In this episode, we’re joined by Roberta Barbieri of Boudin Bakery! Roberta is the Executive Vice President for Human Resources at Boudin. Many of you are familiar with Boudin's San Francisco Sourdough and bread bowls, which they’re making with the same mother dough since 1849, but you may be less familiar with them as a food service industry employer with a very diversified workforce.
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Daily wellness checks and masks are two tools you already have in your toolkit to keep employees and guests safe and prevent closures. Some have discontinued daily wellness checks, and our recommendation is to reinstate them immediately for every employee (even managers and even at your offices). Everyone should complete one every day two to four hours before they report to work, so there’s time to keep them at home if they do show symptoms.
We’re hearing rumors that the CDC may release new recommendations including indoor masking for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Wearing a mask cuts your risk of getting sick by more than half, so masks are your best protection against actually contracting the virus.
We strongly advise that only vaccinated people attend in-person company events, and that you consider pushing any large in-person meetings until October at the earliest. The Delta variant is spreading very quickly and although it’s more serious for the unvaccinated, it poses a risk for vaccinated folks, too. With that said, implementing a testing plan for in-person company events is critical to managing your risk. We recommend testing both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees before departure and on arrival.You might also want to consider testing before departing (so they don’t go home infecting fellow passengers, their families and then co-workers back at their home locations).
YES! This is a common question, and our clinical team knows all too well that the answer is a resounding yes. People who have been infected with COVID do have some natural immunity for a period of time in which it’s very unlikely that they will get COVID again - right now, there’s evidence that it’s at least 90 days for most people. But the issue is that natural immunity from COVID infection is much less consistent and less reliable than immunity from the vaccine, which we know works really really well against the virus, even including the Delta variant. Natural immunity is much more of a gamble and may not provide the same level of protection, plus it may wear off sooner than the vaccine’s protection does. There’s good news here: if someone previously had COVID and they get the vaccine, they are much more protected against the virus. They’re most likely not going to get it again, and even if they were in the very small percentage who did, their symptoms would be much more mild. Long story short: natural immunity is a crapshoot and the vaccine is a sure thing.
Mandating vaccination is a tricky situation. There are clear pros: it's the safest way to operate your business, you don't need to deal with different mask requirements for different employees, and even if someone were to get sick with a breakthrough infection, their illness will be mild and the chances of an outbreak in the workplace are much smaller. Dr. Fauci and other public health officials have been calling for more local vaccination mandates as vaccination rates stall and the Delta variant surges.
The cons tend to be political and legal. Consider how employees and guests will feel about your mandate. As far as legality, the EEOC says that employers can mandate vaccination. Some states have been trying to block employers' ability to mandate shots, and there's a whole slew of local and state legislation to pick through before making any policy decisions, especially if you're operating across county and state lines. There have been a few big wins for employers and universities mandating vaccination over the past few weeks - Indiana University's mandate was upheld just this week. This is a decision that absolutely has to be made with your legal counsel. Here's a good NPR article about employer mandated vaccination.
In general, most of our clients are not mandating vaccines because of the legal and political hurdles that come with it, and are instead focusing on incentivizing employees. But as the Delta variant reminds us that we are not out of the woods - or even close - we do think it's a good time to be considering this option with your legal team.