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COVID-19 Briefs for May 3, 2021

DOH Again Modifies Return-to-Work Guidance: The state Department of Health (DOH) has updated its “Interim Health Advisory: Revised Protocols for Personnel in Healthcare and Other Direct Care Settings to Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure — Including Quarantine and Furlough Requirements for Different Healthcare Settings” here.   

Asymptomatic health care personnel (HCP) who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or furlough after exposure to COVID-19. Work restrictions should still be considered for fully vaccinated HCP who have underlying immunocompromising conditions which might impact the level of protection provided by the vaccine. 

Asymptomatic HCP who have recently recovered from COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or furlough after exposure to COVID-19. 

Asymptomatic HCP who have had exposure to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 may return to work after completing a 10-day quarantine without testing if no symptoms have been reported during the quarantine period if they meet the following conditions:

  • Continue daily symptom monitoring through day 14.
  • Are counseled to continue strict adherence to all recommended nonpharmaceutical interventions (i.e., hand hygiene, face masks or other appropriate respiratory protection face coverings, and the use of eye protection).
  • If working in a nursing home, Enhanced Assisted Living Residence or Assisted Living Program, must furlough for 14 days.

Organizations may allow exposed HCP to return to work early, upon approval of the Commissioner of Health, under certain conditions. This includes hospitals with an actual or anticipated inability to provide essential patient services prior to reaching 85 percent bed capacity, and non-hospital entities with an actual or anticipated inability to provide essential patient services. Before requesting a “Return to Work” waiver, health care entities must have in place strategies to mitigate HCP staffing shortages as outlined in the DOH guidance. 

NY to Follow New CDC Guidance on Masks

On April 27, Governor Cuomo announced that New York State will adopt the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidance on mask use for fully vaccinated people.  

The guidelines state that fully vaccinated people — defined as two or more weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine — no longer need to wear masks outdoors, except in certain crowded settings and venues.

However, masks should still be worn in the following instances: indoor public settings; when visiting indoors with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease; and by people who are not fully vaccinated. 

COVID-19 Testing 

DOH has issued updated guidance on Medicaid billing for COVID-19 testing, specimen collection and monoclonal antibody transfusion.  

J&J Vaccine Pause Q&As and Other Resources 

  • CDC has posted Questions and Answers related to the recent pause and resumption of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. It covers why the pause ended, possible health problems or safety issues with all COVID-19 vaccines, and more.
  • CDC has also posted a Health Alert on “Cases of Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia after Receipt of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine.”
  • The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) has posted a Health Advisory on the resumption of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.  DOHMH strongly encourages providers to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for patients who prefer not to receive the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccines are available at numerous sites throughout NYC. Patients can check nyc.gov or call 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692) for assistance making an appointment at a City-run site. Many NYC sites also accept walk-ins (see here for a list). 

FDA Recommends Transition Away from Crisis Capacity Conservation 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending health care personnel and facilities transition away from crisis capacity conservation strategies, such as decontaminating or bioburden reducing disposable respirators for reuse.

Based on the increased domestic supply of new respirators approved by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the FDA and CDC believe there is adequate supply of respirators to transition away from use of decontamination and bioburden reduction systems.    

On April 9, the FDA issued a letter to health care personnel and facilities recommending that workers stop cleaning and reusing N95 masks and other respirators to limit any contamination. 

However, the FDA is not revoking the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for decontamination and bioburden reduction systems at this time. If there are insufficient supplies of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, health care personnel may continue to use currently-authorized decontamination and bioburden reduction systems, though such reuse of respirators should be limited to when no other respirators are available, including reusable respirators such as elastomeric respirators or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). 

U.S. DOL Initiative on Wage and Hour Laws

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has launched the Essential Workers, Essential Protections initiative to ensure that workers know about wage and hour laws and whom to contact us for assistance. 

This includes Frequently Asked Questions addressing pandemic-related scenarios such as minimum wage and overtime protections and the leave provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, webinars and additional resources. 

OSHA Directed to Consider Necessity of Emergency Temporary Standards

President Biden has issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Labor to consider whether any emergency temporary standards were necessary to keep workers safe from the hazard created by COVID-19. On April 26, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent draft standards to the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review.  HCA will keep members updated on any new standards that result.

Vaccine Hesitancy Webinar

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) will hold a “Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence” webinar on Thursday, May 13 from noon to 1 p.m.

Dr. LaShawn McIver, Director of CMS OMH, will share information and resources to help you address vaccine hesitancy in your community. Dr. McIver will be joined by Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the Food and Drug Administration, who will give an overview of vaccines and their safety.