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Zero Hour Health + Zedic Newsletter - Friday, June 11th

OSHA’s new guidance, another COVID-related disease and can companies require vaccination?

ZHH Updates

  • Marijuana might still be illegal under Federal law, but some states allow employers to deny or terminate employment if a person's drug test comes back positive for marijuana, regardless of its legal status in the state. We break it down in our latest blog post.


  • The FDA and CDC said they’re seeing a higher-than-expected number of heart inflammation conditions in teens and young adults after their second dose of either mRNA COVID vaccine. Though the cases are still rare,there’s an emergency meeting of the ACIP to review the data.(STAT
  • Many states have cut back on their COVID reporting, which alarms public health experts, nationally. (NPR
  • Two passengers on the first “fully vaccinated” Royal Carribean cruise have tested COVID+ and are quarantined in St. Maarten. (Reuters
  • Ohio is battling over a “Vaccine Anti-Discrimination Bill” which would prohibit mandatory COVID vaccination and ban disclosure of a person's vaccination status to a third party. This has big implications for operators in Ohio if it passes. (WHIO)
  • About 6% of new COVID cases in the U.S. come from the highly transmissible Delta variant first identified in India. Current vaccines appear to be highly effective against it. (Washington Post
  • OSHA issued new guidance - but just for the healthcare industry. They outline steps employers must take to protect workers from COVID, but it won’t apply to other high-risk workplaces as was initially implied. (New York Times)
  • Cal-OSHA is walking back its decision to implement stricter masking rules in the workplace. They’ll vote next week on whether to adopt the CDC’s guidelines. (CBS 8)
  • The FDA has issued a recall for a COVID antigen rapid test. The Class I recall - the agency’s most serious - indicates that a product can result in serious injury or death. It was distributed without ever being approved by the FDA. (STAT)
  • Event organizers are offering guests color-coded wristbands that indicate to others whether they’re comfortable having people come physically close to them or if they’d prefer others keep their distance. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The FDA has extended the life of the J&J vaccine by an extra six weeks. (AP)

Today's Health News

  • The Minnesota Department of Health is saying that it’s seen a “significant” rise in norovirus, a very contagious foodborne illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea. As COVID restrictions continue to let up, it’s important to stay the course when it comes to handwashing, disinfecting and daily employee wellness checks! (KIMT)
  • The CDC issued an alert about high case counts of RSV, a common cold virus which can cause pneumonia, spreading in the South. They encouraged doctors to test for RSV when patients test negative for COVID, which shares many of the same symptoms. (CNN)
  • The FDA has approved a pneumonia vaccine for adults 18+. (FDA)
  • Experts fear that people may be more at risk for Legionnaires’ disease as the country returns to “normal”. Legionnella, a bacteria that occurs naturally in ponds and streams, often becomes a problem when it sits in stagnant, lukewarm, unchlorinated water and multiplies. The pipes in buildings that closed during the pandemic provide the perfect environment for it. (USA Today)
  • A 30-year-old Florida woman appears to have died from a case of local dengue. (New England Journal of Medicine)
  • Scientists are noticing more ticks than ever this year, especially in California. (SFGATE)
  • More than 100 new employment and labor laws are set to take effect between July 1 and November 1, 2021, including some which address COVID, marijuana use and drug testing in the workplace. (Littler Mendelson)

Best Questions

Can companies require vaccination? 

Yes. Companies are legally permitted to require employees to get vaccinated, according to recent guidance from the EEOC, the federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws. If an employee can’t or won’t get vaccinated because of a disability or a “sincerely held” religious belief, they may be entitled to an accommodation that doesn’t pose “undue hardship” on your business. Some examples included asking unvaccinated workers to wear masks, work socially distanced from others, get regular COVID tests or work remotely. Of course, you already know how complicated this can be, and should work with your legal counsel as you develop any company policies around vaccination. 

How can we safely have in-person conferences this year?  

It’s going to require a combination of testing, vaccination, physical distancing and sanitizing. Your best bet is to encourage as many of the attendees as possible to get vaccinated, and to make sure you have strong records of who is, so that you can enforce testing, mask wearing and other precautions for those who aren’t. We recommend both at-home PCR testing for unvaccinated attendees sent to the lab a few days before the event, and some sort of rapid on-site testing - a model developed by schools that has proven to reduce outbreaks. Then you’ll need to decide if you’ll require masks for anyone who’s unvaccinated (the CDC’s recommendation), for everyone, or if you’ll make them optional for all. We recommend daily symptom surveys for all attendees. And you should be prepared with an action plan for what to do if someone develops symptoms or tests positive at any point including quarantine rooms or car rentals for travel home.

Is everyone else also having trouble keeping track of state and local guidance?

Yes. From Virginia’s confusing mask guidance to Michigan’s more stringent requirements for quarantine, we’re hearing from all of you that keeping up with the rapidly changing regulatory landscape is suddenly very challenging (again). On top of all that, the CDC’s complicated guidance with differing recommendations for those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated means that even within a state or local jurisdiction’s regulations there tend to be different rules for different groups. 

How can you tell the difference between norovirus and COVID? 

Noro and COVID do have some overlapping symptoms, which can make identifying illness as one or the other tricky. Both can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills and headache. There are some key differences, though. The gastrointestinal symptoms that come with norovirus are intense - often someone sick with noro can’t leave the bathroom at all. They’re also relatively short - most people’s symptoms go away after one-to-three days. COVID, on the other hand, usually involves the development of other symptoms, like cough, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell. 

If someone has classic noro symptoms, they should stay out of work for at least three days, with 48 hours symptom free before they return. If they have any respiratory symptoms or loss of taste or smell, a 10-day exclusion is the way to go. For those with only the symptoms that both illnesses share, that’s when speaking with a clinical expert can be helpful - if someone can’t leave the bathroom and has a mild fever, it might just be noro. If they have a sore throat, runny nose and a 103 fever, too, it’s more likely COVID or another illness.

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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.