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Zero Hour Health + Zedic Newsletter - Tuesday, May 18th

Survivor registries, airborne COVID and more employee vaccinations?

Today's Recap

  • Initial findings suggest that Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines may be effective against the B.1.617.1 variant from India. (bioRxiv)
  • Nursing homes are now required to publicly report vaccination rates for staff and residents starting May 21. (Forbes)
  • Survivor registries, similar to those created after 9/11, may help millions of COVID-19 "long-haulers" qualify for state and federal benefits. (Politico)
  • After the CDC confirmed COVID can be transmitted through the air, scientists are now calling for improvements to existing indoor ventilation systems. (Bloomberg)
  • People 80+ who waited 11-12 weeks before getting their second Pfizer shot were found to have had triple the antibody levels than those who waited three weeks, a new study found. (Nature)
  • After a setback in an earlier trial, Sanofi and GSK have announced that, in an early-stage clinical trial, their joint COVID vaccine produced strong immune responses in recipients across all ages studied. They’ll be conducting an international Phase three study in the weeks to come. (STAT)
  • As vaccination rates continue to decrease across much of the US, New York City has announced it will incentivize residents to get their shots by offering prizes, including free tickets to the NYC Aquarium, the Bronx Zoo, Lincoln Center and the NYC Ferry. (ABC7)
  • Babies and young children are dying from COVID in Brazil at higher rates than expected. Doctors think some of it has to do with access to healthcare, but variants may be partially responsible, as well. (Business Insider)
  • Starting tomorrow, New York will adopt the new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people. It’s now up to businesses to enforce the policy. (Gothamist)
  • But other states, like New Jersey and California, have decided to wait before lifting indoor mask mandates. (ABC News, San Francisco Chronicle)

  • The FDA has released its findings after an investigation into the Salmonella Newport outbreak that caused more than 1,600 reported illnesses in the U.S. and Canada between June and October 2020. (FDA)

Best Questions

Why does COVID-related protection only last for 90 days, when protection from the vaccine is indefinite?

There’s a lot more evidence about the protection that vaccines provide because they’ve been carefully studied in controlled environments. We know that the immune response from vaccines protects against COVID for at least six months and likely longer - we’ll continue to learn more as more people get vaccinated and participate in research. For COVID+ people, antibody levels are much more varied and inconsistent. Some people might have lots of protection, others might be more vulnerable. So for those who aren’t yet fully vaccinated but previously had COVID, the CDC says they’re protected for 90 days. Beyond that time window, they’ll need to self-quarantine because we can’t be sure if they’re protected or not. For those fully vaccinated, they’re protected for now without a time limit, and we’ll likely learn more about booster shots in the coming months. 

If we found out today an employee tested COVID+ 14 days ago, do we need to do exclusions now? 

If all of the COVID exposures were 14 or more days ago, there’s no need to do work exclusions now, unless they were exposed again more recently. Instead, we’d recommend making sure you’re doing very good daily employee wellness checks and auditing to make sure every single employee is doing them before every single shift. If no one else is sick, you’re likely in the clear. If others are sick, you should do the appropriate contact tracing and ensure anyone with symptoms stays home. 

What are some of the issues with managers at the store level knowing who is vaccinated?

They need to keep that information confidential, although those who are unmasked will be self-identifying as vaccinated. But it’s important that managers don’t start coercing unvaccinated people once they've been identified. We recommend discussing this with your counsel, as it’s a complicated legal issue. 

What are you hearing about OSHA guidance?

While there were some reports that they may just not issue any specific COVID guidance at all, our sources have indicated that new guidance has been drafted and then modified in light of new mask recommendations from the CDC. It should be issued within two weeks, apparently. We’ll all be keeping a close eye on this, and expect it to influence state OSHAs, as well. Recently, OSHA’s website was updated, saying: “The [CDC] has issued new guidance relating to recommended precautions for people who are fully vaccinated, which is applicable to activities outside of healthcare and a few other environments. OSHA is reviewing the recent CDC guidance and will update our materials on this website accordingly. Until those updates are complete, please refer to the CDC guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers.”

Are you seeing more employees getting vaccinated now that they know they can unmask?

Not yet. The rate of vaccinations is still decreasing drastically with less than two million doses administered per day, down from more than four million per day back in April. And while there are promising stats floating around, like the fact that nearly 60% of US adults have at least one dose, there are major caveats to that - like the fact that some people aren’t returning for dose two, or that those vaccination rates aren’t consistent. While nearly half of Maine is fully vaccinated, less than 30% of Utah is vaccinated. Plus, those numbers look a lot lower when we look only at those between 18 and 65, the majority of the workforce.

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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.