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COVID-19 Public Health and Vaccine Briefs for March 15, 2021 

What follows are important developments in the COVID-19 health response and vaccination effort, as well as related resources, from the past week.

CDC Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson-Janssen).

The following recommendations apply to non-healthcare settings. Fully vaccinated people can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.

For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention. measures when visiting 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.
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households.
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings.
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers.
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.

The guidance also covers: visits between fully vaccinated people and between fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people; vaccinated people visiting with unvaccinated people from a single household that has individuals at risk of severe COVID-19; recommendations for isolation, quarantine and testing; and more.

While this is the CDC’s guidance, we will seek to determine whether the state will adopt these recommendations, whether stricter state standards apply, or whether these changes will result in any modification of requirements for employers, including in health care settings.

Vaccine Priority Group Expansion

On March 9, Governor Cuomo announced a new expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in New York. See the state Department of Health guidance here. Beginning March 10, all New Yorkers 60 years of age and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine, while ‘public facing’ essential workers from governmental and nonprofit entities will be eligible beginning March 17.

This expansion includes public-facing essential building services workers, public works employees, social service and child service caseworkers, government inspectors, sanitation workers, DMV workers, county clerks, building service workers and election workers.

Governor Relaxes Restrictions on Where Certain Groups Can Be Vaccinated

In alignment with the expanded eligibility, on March 17, the Governor has also relaxed restrictions on where certain segments of the eligible population can get vaccinated.

Previously, certain types of providers were directed to focus their vaccination efforts on specific populations to ensure equitable vaccine distribution. For example, hospitals had been designated to vaccinate health care workers, local health departments vaccinated essential workers, and pharmacies vaccinated New Yorkers 65 years of age and older.

Now, these entities will be able to vaccinate any eligible New Yorker, with the exception of pharmacies, which will focus on individuals over the age of 60, teachers and child-care workers, starting March 10.

As part of this effort, the entities are being encouraged to vaccinate those New Yorkers most at risk, such as individuals 60 years of age and older and people with comorbidities and underlying health conditions.

Return to Work

DOH has issued revised Return to Work guidance. The purpose of this update is to provide clarification regarding quarantine, furlough, and testing for health care personnel (HCP) exposed to COVID-19, including those who are fully vaccinated, and to provide advice on next steps for health care provider entities with current or imminent staffing shortages that threaten essential patient services.

It addresses testing of asymptomatic HCP who have recovered from COVID-19 and testing of asymptomatic HCP exposed to COVID-19, who are allowed to return to work earlier than 10 days from such diagnosis or exposure, to the extent that these are both mitigation strategies to reduce staffing shortages.

Vaccine Education

The Hudson Mohawk Area Health Education Center (AHEC) has announced two upcoming educational opportunities regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The COVID-19 Vaccine and Me” is for health care professionals, workers and staff to gain basic information on what the COVID-19 vaccine is, why it’s important to get vaccinated, and how one can get registered to become vaccinated. The sessions are on March 23 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. (registration is here) and March 24 from noon to 12:30 p.m. (registration is here).

Another session on “Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy” will be held on April 8 from noon to 1 p.m. (registration is here).

More information on the Hudson Mohawk AHEC is at https://www.hmahec.org/.

HSS Vaccination Opportunities in NYC

The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), at 525 East 71st Street in Manhattan, has received COVID-19 vaccines and can give front-line “patient-facing” home care workers the vaccine this week, targeting Wednesday March 17, 2021.

Home care workers will need to bring documentation of their employment (ID badge or recent pay stub); a driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued identification. They also need to bring a health insurance/Medicaid card (if any) to HSS on the day of their vaccination.

Agencies should complete the spread sheet available as a download in Excel here and send it to Jennifer O’Neil at oneillj@HSS.EDU so that workers can be scheduled for appointments.

Erie County

Erie County will begin vaccination of homebound individuals at the beginning of April. For more information, contact Andrew Koski at akoski@hcanys.org.

Capital Region

As of March 17, all vaccination sites — except for pharmacies — will be allowed vaccinate home care staff (and other priority individuals), so agencies serving the Capital Region should look to all sites and still pre-register with the system at https://alb.518c19.com/.

Local county health departments are interested in working with home care providers to vaccinate their “homebound” patients. If you want to discuss this activity, contact Andrew Koski at akoski@hcanys.org.

Travel Restrictions

Governor Cuomo has announced that domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another U.S. state or territory starting April 1. While no longer required, the state Department of Health still recommends quarantine after domestic travel as an added precaution. Mandatory quarantine remains in effect for international travelers. All travelers must continue to fill out the Traveler Health Form.

Regardless of quarantine status, all individuals exposed to COVID-19 or returning from travel must:

  • Continue daily symptom monitoring through day 14.
  • Continue strict adherence to all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions, including hand hygiene and the use of face coverings, through day 14 (even if fully vaccinated).
  • Immediately self-isolate if any symptoms develop and contact the local public health authority or their health care provider to report this change in clinical status and determine if they should seek testing.

More information is here and here.

OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has posted Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with new instructions and guidance to Area Offices and Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. Among other provisions, it prioritizes the use of on-site workplace inspections where practical, or a combination of on-site and remote methods.

Agencies are encouraged to review this guidance as it affects their staff and services.