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Zero Hour Health + Zedic Newsletter - Friday, May 21st

New coronavirus, disagreement over CDC guidance and Hepatitis on the rise

Today's Recap

  • A new coronavirus - not a variant of the existing SARS-CoV-2 - has been identified in patients in Malaysia. And the probable source is a surprising one: dogs. (NPR)
  • More than 95% of people who received just one dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines develop COVID antibodies, according to a new study out of the UK. That number rises to almost 100% after the second dose of either vaccine. These promising findings add to the growing evidence that these vaccines are incredibly effective. (Forbes)
  • Pfizer’s vaccine can now be stored in a refrigerator for up to one month. This is great news and may help broaden the distribution of vaccines in more rural communities. (FDA)
  • National Nurses United, the US’ largest registered nurses union, is asking the CDC to revoke its new mask guidance. They say it’s putting frontline workers at risk, arguing that the update will be “felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities”. (Washington Post)
  • Online searches for fake COVID vaccination cards spiked after the CDC announced its new guidance. (Forbes)
  • New Hampshire's state epidemiologist is recommending that everyone still wear masks and socially distance indoors if they are around unvaccinated people or those of unknown vaccination status. This contradiction of CDC guidance is, in part, due to the difficulty that employers are facing with implementing it. (WMUR)
  • But in California, employers are discussing whether they should drop the mask mandates and social distancing for fully vaccinated employees as they begin bringing them back to the office.  Cal OSHA punted two weeks for their own guidance decision. (LA Times)
  • And the city of Austin is also loosening event rules this summer. Starting next week, event organizers applying for permits won’t have to require attendees to prove they’re vaccinated and can “anticipate changes to the social distancing requirements and masking requirements.” (Austin Monitor)
  • New York and Maryland are the latest states to join Ohio in offering million-dollar vaccination incentives. (The Guardian, The Baltimore Sun
  • New York and New Jersey have adopted the Healthy Terminals Act, which will boost wages and access to healthcare for airport workers at the region’s three major airports. (Littler Mendelson)
  • Moderna and Pfizer CEOs are saying some people could need boosters as early as September. Those who were vaccinated earliest would be first on the list, so this might not be as relevant for your employees just yet, but this should stay on your radar. (Axios)
  • Hepatitis A and C infections in the U.S. are on the rise, according to new CDC data. Injection drug use was a major reason for both these spikes. (STAT)

Best Questions

Since kids 2-11 can’t be vaccinated yet, do you recommend requiring masks for that age range?

This is a question that many of our clients are wrestling with right now – how to require masking for some and not others, whether to require proof of vaccination, etc. We do know that, clinically speaking, children can transmit the virus, and while there is no approved vaccine for those under 12 yet, many businesses are requiring masks for anyone who is unvaccinated, including all kids in that age range. Actually enforcing it is another matter entirely – will you require children of that age range to wear masks, but not adults? How will you know if a child falls into that group? It’s a challenging issue, and one you’ll likely need to sit down with your legal team to work through. Right now, most of what we’re seeing is blanket rules (for example, “all unvaccinated people above age two need to wear masks”) and separate conversations around how best to enforce those rules based on your own organization’s assessment.

Can those who have tested COVID+ work maskless for 90 days?

There’s a 90-day window after someone tests COVID+ in which they don’t need to be excluded if exposed because of studies that show that the possibility of transmission is low in someone who has just recovered from COVID. By that same logic, it tracks that those people might not need to wear masks during that window of time. But the CDC hasn’t issued specific guidance on this and their current guidelines about being maskless only apply to those who are fully vaccinated. Before you allow recently COVID+ employees to work sans mask, it might be a good question to run by your legal counsel.

Previously we were advising employees not to commute together. Can they carpool now?

If all employees in the car are fully vaccinated and symptom-free, the risk is relatively low. CDC has said that fully vaccinated people can resume normal activities without masks because the risk of catching or transmitting COVID is very low. If anyone in the car is not fully vaccinated (meaning it’s 14 or more days since their final dose of the vaccine), we’d recommend against carpooling. Your risk assessment or legal teams can determine whether you’d like to have different guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees around carpooling and other company policies.

Are you seeing a significant uptick in Hep A this week?

Yes. From Maine to North Carolina, there have been several outbreak alerts this week. NYC issued a city-wide Hep A alert two weeks ago. COVID precautions were effective in preventing Hep A transmission. We’d hoped that the Hep A outbreak cycle was broken during that time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Now would be a good time to remind everyone that Hep A continues to circulate. They should know that the primary symptoms often include yellowing of skin or eyes and discolored urine. Proper handwashing and not working with GI symptoms are critical to preventing the spread of Hep A!

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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.