As the holiday season kicks into full swing, keep informed on the latest on COVID-19. Below you’ll find synthesized updates on:
- The Omicron variant
- New U.S. travel requirements
- OSHA’s ETS
- Booster shots
A lot of information is being reported about the Omicron variant. While it is good that scientists are moving quickly to identify and share new characteristics associated with this variant, we are still a few weeks away from having enough information to more accurately understand the new variant. Below are five questions we use to help us track how the pandemic is evolving:
- Can the new variant be detected with the currently available antigen and molecular tests?
- Is the new variant more or less transmissible than previous variants?
- How effective are the current vaccines against the new variant?
- Can you become infected by the new variant even if you’ve previously had COVID-19?
- Does the new variant result in more or less severe illness, hospitalizations, and death?
What we know about Omicron so far is that it seems most of our currently available PCR and molecular tests, as well as rapid antigen tests, are able to detect the Omicron variant. We also know that those who have been previously infected can be reinfected with this variant. Those that are fully immunized can also be infected but the symptoms seem to remain mild. It will still take time to confirm these early indicators.
As we learn more about Omicron, and the Delta variant continues to spread, you may want to consider making adjustments to your company holiday party. Also, if work circumstances allow, consider encouraging more employees to take advantage of flexible work arrangements like working from home or staggered shifts to reduce workplace density. If employees must be in the office, masks, social distancing, and handwashing will help keep your workplace safer.
As of December 6, 2021, all air passengers, including U.S. citizens, who are two years or older and boarding a flight to the U.S. from a foreign country must get a COVID-19 test no more than one day/24 hours before air travel to the United States. This requirement applies to those who have been fully vaccinated. There is an exception for those who recently recovered from COVID-19 and are able to supply documentation from a licensed healthcare provider about their COVID-19 recovery in the past 90 days.
The CDC also suggests vaccinated travelers get tested three to five days after arriving in the U.S. and that unvaccinated travelers self-quarantine for seven days, even if they test negative during that time frame.
Additionally, the White House has extended the requirement that people wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses, and other modes of public transportation through March 18, 2022.
The OSHA ETS directing employers with 100 or more employees to either require vaccines or weekly testing and mask-wearing for the unvaccinated is still suspended. The sixth circuit court of appeals will address challenges to the ETS and based on deadlines set by the court, the ETS will be suspended until at least December 10, 2021, four days after employers were expected to comply with most of the ETS requirements.
While we wait for the courts, employers are continuing to prepare. Several employers have submitted questions to the Department Of Labor (DOL) regarding the ETS. The DOL has responded to these questions to help employers craft policies to keep employees safe from COVID-19 in the workplace, regardless of whether the ETS is re-implemented. A list of those FAQs can be found here:
In the meantime, keep your employees safe by continuing to encourage vaccination and booster shots and require unvaccinated employees to either work from home or to wear a mask and test if they come into the workplace.
With the emergence of the new variant, Omicron, the CDC shifted its recommendation from all adults age 18+ “may” get booster shots to all adults 18+ “should” get booster shots. Booster shots are readily available and it is okay to mix and match vaccines. Please encourage your employees to get their boosters as soon as they are able.
Authored by Heather Towery, M.D., VP Clinical Strategy and Enterprise Partnerships at Eden Health
Disclaimer: This information is based on current resources available and is subject to change. This document and its contents are provided for informational purposes only, and not intended to be, and should not be understood or treated as, a substitute for professional medical advice around COVID-19, its risks or symptoms, or to take the place of any local, state and national laws and guidelines around COVID-19. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.