Considerations for Return to Work
- In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss Considerations for return to work with some states lifting their COVID restrictions. Read More below.
- Surpassing previous expectations, the US is now averaging 2 million vaccines per day, yet NPR reports that as COVID vaccinations are speeding up, the are increasing reports of “doses going to waste”; some of this is due to appointments not being met, while others occur due to improper storage, freezer breakdown, etc.
- Covaxin, an Indian coronavirus vaccine that had previously generated controversy due to having been granted approval prior to its final testing, has now been shown to provide 81% protection against COVID-19.
- An increasing number of states have rolled back mask mandates and other measures (including Alamba, Mississippi, Texas, Montana, and Iowa). However, as USA Today reports, many major American retail chains and businesses will continue to enforce policies requiring masks in stores.
- COVID Act Now reports on a recent study exploring the “Impacts of introducing and lifting nonpharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 daily growth rate and compliance in the U.S.”. The study found that implementing NPIs “significantly reduced cases and mitigated the disproportiante burden of COVID on marginalized populations. NPIs were more effective in counties with non-white populations above the national median. Counties with higher median household incomes had higher compliance with NPIs which also led to greater reductions in COVID cases.”
- Another study of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in infants (MIS-C) – https://immunology.sciencemag.org/content/6/57/eabf7570
- STATNews has put together a short read-through about the potential outlook for “The Short-Term, Middle-Term, and Long-Term Future of the Coronavirus”
- Not everyone is able to get the vaccine right now; VICE offers some thoughts on how to not get stuck in Vaccine FOMO and Jealousy!
- In happier news, the Great Apes at the San Diego Zoo are now the first non-humans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine!
- Yesterday, Brazil’s Fiocruz Institute sounded another alarm that the pandemic is worsening in Brazil (ICU’s are above 80% occupancy in 19 of 27 districts) brought on by increasing transmission, high test positive rates, and growing cases and deaths, and two SARS-CoV-2 variants (P1 and P2). In fact, Brazil has been reporting daily record COVID-19 related deaths.
- As we discussed Monday and Wednesday, the World Health Organize reports that new COVID-19 cases in Europe have increased by 9%.
- Also on the brighter side, global Influenza A and B cases remain sporadic and low.
Recommendations for Industry
Considerations for Return to Work
Q. With some states lifting their COVID restrictions, we are beginning to think about backing down on our policies as well as having the work-from-home employees return to the office. What do we need to be considering?
A. Although two states, Texas and Mississippi, are reopening businesses and rescinding mask mandates, CDC is continuing to warn that the U.S. may see a fourth COVID-19 wave, despite increases in vaccinations. This is based on continued evolution of variants, and the situations being seen around the world, such as that of Brazil which is in crisis mode with a resurgence of deaths and overwhelmed health care due to the variant P. 1, which also has been detected in at least five U.S. states.
Because of this and the continuing limited availability of vaccines, TAG continues to recommend that business maintain protections while developing return to work policies. Some areas that TAG recommends be considered include:
- The rate of community spread in your area and the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated.
- The general environment of vaccine acceptance vs. hesitancy in your community.
- Commuting practices, with public transportation and even carpools having greater risk over
- Allowing those uncomfortable with returning to continue to work from home.
- Beginning with a hybrid approach to enable continued distancing.
- Continuing, or even enhancing, wellness checks.
- Encouraging and/or incentivizing employees to be vaccinated.
In Case You Missed It
- In Wednesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the flattened rate of COVID transmission increasing the urgency to maintain all protections and TAG’s US Risk Matrix. There is potential that cases may be rising. Read More Here.
- With a new vaccine on the market (Johnson & Johnson), the New York Times breaks down what vaccine efficacy numbers mean.
- The CDC warns that despite increases in vaccination (and the availability of a third vaccine), the U.S. may yet see a fourth COVID-19 wave. The head of the CDC warns that we must be vigliant of the COVID-19 variant B117. A few weeks ago, B117 cases only accounted for 1 – 4% of all COVID cases. Now, the B117 variant accounts for 10% of all COVID-19 cases. COVID Act Now reports that CNN discusses evidence of a new variant (B.1.526) spreading in New York City. This variant may be more effective at evading immune responses; it contains two mutations (one found in the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa and another found in the P.1 variant first identified in Brazil). Additionally, the New York Times reports that “Every coronavirus variant of concern to researchers around the world has been circulating in Houston [Texas] at a low level for at least six to eight weeks, a new study has found. Houston is the first U.S. city to find all of the variants, including those recently reported in California and New York and the ones found in Brazil, Britain and South Africa”. In all this, while COVAX immunizations have begun in Africa and there has been a 6-week decline in global COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 cases are rising again.
- As part of the National Consumer Protection Week, the FDA has announced (and is warning the public) of the importance of being aware of COVID-19 Vaccine Scams. As we’ve stated before, please be wary of untoward vaccine offers.
- A recent Public Health England (non-peer-reviewed) study found that, in real life situations, both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are effective against COVID-19 and offer protection against the B117 variant.
- Although the CDC has long decried the use of hydroxychloroquine to fight against COVID-19, the World Health Organization now echoes that sentiment declaring that there is no evidence of benefit for its use.
- A meta-analysis and systematic review of convalescent plasma has found that, ultimately, there is no real benefit of convalescent plasma (although it was granted an EUA by the FDA in August 2020).
- A research letter printed in JAMA found that those who had previously been infected with COVID-19 – then later received a single dose of mRNA vaccine, had “higher antibody titer responses”. It is important to note that the sample size is small (n = 59) and there is still much more research needed. However, the researchers state that “given the ongoing worldwide vaccine shortages, the results inform suggestions for a single-dose vaccination strategy for those with prior COVID-19 or placing them lower on the vaccination priority list.”
- As cases seemingly decrease, some states are lifting their mask mandates and lifting business restrictions (including Texas and Mississippi). Without knowing for certain the true trajectory of COVID, TAG does not recommend loosening restrictions.
- On Tuesday, Brazil recorded its highest single-day toll of the pandemic at 1,7000 COVID-19 related deaths. The accelectation of the pandemic in Brazil (due to the variant’s spread) is something that TAG will be keeping an eye on. Preliminary studies indicate that the variant may be more contagious and may also reinfect those who had been previously infected with other variants.
- Germany will extend it’s COVID-19 lockdown measures through March 28, 2021.
- Moderna is ready to test its new vaccine version designed to be more effective against some newer varaints.
- COVID testing in the U.S. has fallen by 30% in recent weeks. Some places are testing half as many people as in November and other sites are only testing at 35% of capacity. Some reasons for the COVID testing decreases can be attributed to potentially fewer exposures, less travel, bad weather leading to closed sites, increased vaccine rollout, pandemic fatigue, but also a decrease in infections and spread.
- Thousands of farmworkers in the United States, who ensure the functionality and supply of our food system, are being prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination!
- Canada is set to receive 6.5 million Covid-19 vaccines by end of March.
- The FDA is allowing for more flexible storage and transportation conditions for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine; undiluted frozen vials of the vaccine can be “transported and stored at conventional temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers […] for up to two weeks” as opposed to being in ultra-low temperature freezers.
- The FDA has released new guidance for medical manufacturers related to addressing future SARS-CoV-2 variants that may emerge.