CDC COVID-19 updates: a new chapter…from the same book

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Who doesn’t appreciate a good cliff hanger? Truthfully, we could have done without a COVID-19 sequel for 2022, but since we’re here, let’s dive in.

First and foremost, there’s actually good news compared to where we were in January 2021. For those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, yet still contract the virus, symptoms are generally milder. A January 7th study published by the CDC reviewed risk factors for severe COVID-19 outcomes for adults age 18 or greater who completed a primary COVID-19 vaccination series. The study, covering 465 health care facilities, noted that severe COVID-19 outcomes (i.e., respiratory failure, ICU admission, or death) were rare among adults aged ≥18 years after primary vaccination. Risk for a severe COVID-19 outcome after primary vaccination was higher among persons aged ≥65 years, were immunosuppressed, or had one of six other underlying conditions: diabetes, and chronic kidney, cardiac, pulmonary, neurologic, and liver disease.1

The CDC has identified the following significant risk factors:

  • Age 65+
  • Immunosuppressed
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Neurologic disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiac disease

You may be wondering, “How this is good news?” Knowledge is power, and we are lightyears ahead of where we were just a year ago, which means we can use strategies we’ve learned over time to help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

What is the CDC’s guidance?

Significant studies of different geographic regions, including regions in Africa where vaccination levels remain low (in some countries, less than 4% of the population is fully vaccinated), show the Omicron variant is now much more prevalent than the Delta variant. In addition to the increased vaccination level’s globally, Omicron’s dominance over Delta is also due to the higher rate of contagiousness. Fortunately, as discussed above, it has also proven to cause far less severe levels of illness in many cases.

That said, since you don’t know which variant you might have when you take that ever-difficult-to-obtain at-home test, the guidance from the CDC remains the same.

If you test positive for COVID-19:

  • Isolate for 5 days, regardless of symptoms, then:
    • If you are asymptomatic, add 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.
    • If symptoms are resolved and you have been without a fever for 24 hours, add 5 days of wearing a mask around others.
    • If you have significant symptoms that are not resolving and you still have a fever, continue to isolate and wear a mask if you must be around others.

Why? Science. It’s showing that transmission of Omicron is occurring early in the illness – 1 to 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and 2 to 3 days thereafter.

If you are “exposed to COVID-19”:

  • ALL persons, regardless of vaccination status:
    • Test 5 days after exposure. If positive, follow “positive test” procedure above.
  • If more than 6 months have passed since being vaccinated by the mRNA or more than 2 months from the J&J vaccination and not boosted, or if you are unvaccinated:
    • Isolate for 5 days and
    • Strict mask wearing for an additional 5 days
  • Vaccinated and boosted:
    • 10 days of mask wearing

Booster recommendations differ based on which initial vaccination you received. Moderna remains at 6 months, Pfizer boosters are recommended at 5 months, and the J&J booster is recommended after 2 months from original vaccination.

Now that you know what to do and when to do it, remember that this applies to all who may get vaccinated, and the CDC has also expanded the option for boosters to be recommended for those as young as 12 years old.

Definitions:

  1. Exposed to COVID-19: Contact with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a way that increases the likelihood of getting infected with the virus.
  2. Close Contact: Someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinical diagnosis) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes).

For more helpful information on quarantine or isolation requirements, please see the CDC website here.

The impact on workers, and what employers should consider in 2022

To understand practical measures that can be taken to protect your workforce from COVID exposure, employers, like everyone else, should stay abreast of the most recent updates from the CDC. As the global COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its third calendar year, employers have already adapted in ways large and small, adopting new practices to enable remote work, social distancing, masking, and making other adjustments designed to protect the safety of their employees. However, not all employers have updated their internal practices to effectively manage requests associated with employee objections to COVID vaccination. Employers should be developing consistent, compliant practices to address requests for exemptions or accommodations to COVID vaccination for medical or religious reasons. For a deeper dive into this topic, join us for our upcoming webinar, presented on February 2, 2022, in collaboration with ReedGroup. Here’s the link: COVID-19: What’s Next on Vaccines and Exemptions.

What Guardian is doing

Guardian continuously tracks and analyzes current and pending leave and accommodation legislation and guidance to determine potential impacts to our customers. In addition, Guardian monitors guidance from agencies such as the Department of Labor and EEOC and incorporates that guidance into our administration when appropriate.

If you’re looking for assistance managing leave of absence or accommodations or to ensure compliance across your organization, Guardian has solutions for you. Review our offerings here.

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Disclaimer

Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. Guardian Life does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic. 

1 Reference: Risk Factors for Severe COVID-19 Outcomes Among Persons Aged ≥18 Years Who Completed a Primary COVID-19 Vaccination Series - 465 Health Care Facilities, United States, December 2020–October 2021. Found at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7101a4.htm

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