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Zero Hour Health + Zedic Newsletter - Tuesday, July 13th

Booster drama, Delta variant news, and the next surge is here...


  • There are now more than 23,000 new COVID cases a day, a 94% increase from two weeks ago. And there are likely many more, because not many people are being tested. Cases are particularly high in four states: Florida, Missouri, Arkansas and Nevada. (CNN).
  • The FDA is adding yet another warning for the J&J vaccine - this time about increased risk for Guillain–Barré, a nerve syndrome. It’s still extremely rare: out of 12.5 million people who received the vaccine, there were about 100 cases reported to the CDC. Doctors say the vaccine is still far safer than contracting COVID. (New York Times)
  • There is increasing pressure on the FDA to give full approval (rather than Emergency Use Authorization) to COVID -19 vaccines. Some who are vaccine hesitant say that full approval will convince them to get the shot.  (Infection Control Today)
  • The WHO’s director had harsh words for Pfizer and other manufacturers who are focusing on booster doses, saying they must be focusing on getting first doses to countries who need them. (STAT News)
  • Meanwhile, Israel started doling out third booster doses of Pfizer, despite the WHO’s objections. (Reuters)
  • A Belgian woman died of COVID after contracting two different variants at the same time, likely from two different sources. (NPR)
  • New reports show that nearly 15 million people skipped their second shot. The second dose is key for providing full protection, especially against the Delta variant. (MedPage Today)
  • Summer camps are getting hit hard by COVID outbreaks, raising fears that schools will be next in the fall. (AP)
  • COVID testing may soon be as easy as taking a breathalyzer. (Yahoo)
  • And a new MIT mask prototype can detect COVID infection in about 90 minutes, and might be used for other diseases like Ebola and Zika, as well as COVID.  (MIT)

Today’s Health News

  • Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is spreading very quickly, at rates usually seen in fall and winter.  This is worrying doctors and parents, not to mention complicating work exclusions.  (NBC News)
  • Tyson’s recall of pre-cooked chicken keeps expanding, and now includes more than 9 million pounds of pre-cooked chicken marketed under many different brand names. (FDA)
  • The MN Department of Health is investigating multiple cases of Legionella, potentially associated with a hotel in Albert Lea, MN. (Duluth News)
  • The risk of malaria and dengue in the U.S. will increase over the next few years due to climate change and rising greenhouse gas emissions (The Hill)
  • Raw dog food may be responsible for superbugs, antibiotic resistant bacteria that may ultimately threaten humans as well as our canine companions. (US News

Best Questions

How do we address questions about booster doses, especially in light of Pfizer talking about the need for boosters soon while the CDC and FDA are saying they aren’t needed yet?

It’s a complicated issue pitting public health experts against pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies, of course, want to make money. Their internal studies show that the chance of reinfection is increasing slightly over time (as expected), and they’re making the case that people will need a booster dose to keep their protection levels high. But many public health officials, including the very vocal director-general of the WHO, strongly believe that we should focus on getting to the billions of totally unvaccinated people first, before worrying about waning protection in those who are vaccinated. Remember, the vaccines work very well. The data that Pfizer points to to justify booster doses show that reinfection rates increase after six months, but even with waning antibodies, the vaccine is still about 95% effective against severe disease and even more effective against death due to COVID. The CDC and FDA issued a statement immediately after Pfizer announced it was seeking FDA authorization for booster doses, saying that there’s still research needed before we have proof that booster doses are necessary - and that some of those studies will be conducted independently from the drug companies. Ultimately, it’s the FDA - and not the pharmaceutical companies - that will make the call about whether boosters are needed. 

Is there a way to  know if my employees who are COVID + have the Delta variant?

Generally, no. Most COVID tests are just testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, and not for the specific genetic markers that show whether it’s the Delta variant. To test for the specific variant, labs need to perform much more expensive genomic testing on the sample, which takes more time, as well. Generally, a lab, health department or the CDC might decide that a specific case or outbreak looks “suspicious” and test it further to see what variant caused it, but that’s rare. There are some companies working on rapid tests, including some at-home tests, that are capable of detecting the Delta variant, but none are available now. Right now in the U.S., experts estimate that over 50% of COVID cases are due to the Delta variant; so while you may not get a lab result to confirm it, you can guess that if someone gets COVID in the next few weeks and likely months, it’s probably Delta. 

If unvaccinated employees are required to be masked indoors, can they remove masks to eat or drink?

It’s best if your unvaccinated employees don’t eat or drink inside. If possible, they should take their breaks outdoors and remove their masks there to eat and drink. If that’s not possible, and they must eat or drink indoors, they should do so quickly, ideally in a ventilated area where they are not within 6ft of others, and put their mask back on as soon as they are finished eating or drinking. Removing their mask to eat and drink indoors means they are releasing and breathing in respiratory droplets, increasing their chance of transmission in an enclosed space, which is why outdoor eating and drinking breaks are so much safer. As always, we recommend you consult your legal and HR teams before finalizing your company policy. 

Do most return to office policies include testing?  

Yes, and we can help you figure out which test, provider, and frequency works best for your workplace. Give us a call, chat in the app, or email us at and we’ll help you put together a return-to-office plan that works for you. 

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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.