Should we be worried about the new COVID19 Delta Variant?
The Delta Variant is here. According to Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine and an executive vice president at the Scripps Research Institution:
“It is the most hyper-transmissible, contagious version of the virus we’ve seen to date, for sure—it’s a super-spreader strain if there ever was one,”
A study from the Singapore Ministry of Health found that the #DeltaVariant has 4.9x higher odds of oxygen, hospital admission, or death. One possible explanation for its high rate of transmissibility is that the Delta Variant produces a much higher viral load than other major strains.
The WHO recently announced that over 2 dozen countries have seen a dramatic surge, some more than >800%, of #DeltaVariant cases. In the United States, the Delta variant is affecting mostly people who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. And while the CDC claims that masks are no longer needed for vaccinated individuals, the WHO, New York and California State now recommend that also vaccinated people should wear a mask, both indoors and outdoors, while the Delta Variant is surging.
It remains our collective responsibility to ensure that as we begin returning to a new normal, which means living with this pathogen in a safe and intelligent manner, we leverage the experience we gained using the tools we have that we know work:
1) Vaccination 2) Masks 3) Testing and in some cases 4) Social distancing
Here are the tools to ensure that employees return to work in a safe environment.
Incentivize employees to get vaccinated
In the U.S as of July 11th, 2021, only 48 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. While not always 100% effective, vaccination still remains to be one of the best protection against the COVID 19 and the Delta variant. We have seen breakthrough infections, however they are rare.
Here are what four companies are doing:
- Chobani: Offers workers paid time off to get vaccinated.
- Kroger: Pays a $100 bonus to any employees who get vaccinated.
- American Airlines: Gives vaccinated employees an extra day off and $50 in the company’s employee recognition program.
- Target: Grants four hours of pay—two hours for each dose and provides all workers with free Lyft rides, up to $15 each way, to get to and from their appointments if they need it.
Mandate mask wearing
The vaccines prevent illness, but it has still yet to be known if they prevent transmission. Vaccinated individuals may still be asymptomatic spreaders. Wearing a mask, and enforcing the policy in the workplace, will protect you and those around you.
While the CDC and Virginia and the city of Alexandria, lifted their mask mandates, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Alexandria, Va. said it is keeping its mask policies in place for now. Employees and customers are required to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
"My fear is that people will say they're vaccinated when they're not vaccinated and then just walk around unmasked," said Nicole McGrew, owner of the clothing and accessories boutique Threadleaf in Old Town Alexandria. McGrew and her two employees are fully vaccinated, but she has an 11-year-old son who's too young to get the vaccine. In the store, she still wears a mask and will continue to require that of her customers for at least a short time longer, she said.
Test workers before they return to the office
Face-to-face meetings are essential to building long-term business relationships and COVID-19 testing is a key component of an effective strategy for businesses that are looking to get employees back to the office. Implementing surveillance testing when infection rates goes up above a certain threshold will ensure a safe working environment and enable staying open which is a better than going back on lock downs. Because 50%–80% of infected individuals are asymptomatic it’s not sufficient to perform testing on symptomatic individuals. More information here on the effectiveness of varies strategies.
Make sure to implement polices that dis-incentivizes employees to show up with an upper respiratory illness. Pre-COVID, employees would go to work with a cold and sometimes the flu which cost employers and employees $45 Billion/year in lost earnings, reducing productivity and increasing direct medical costs. During the pandemic the flu has practically disappeared; what prevents COVID19 also prevents other upper respiratory diseases.
The silver lining here is that employers can increase productivity and reduce cost by implementing effective measures that reduces transmission of upper respiratory illness in the workplace.
About Genomic Expression
We want to help you get your employees back in the office and stay open through the next surge.
We offer a saliva-based COVID19 PCR testing program that is FDA EUA approved for screening of asymptomatic individuals and unsupervised self collection that allows organizations to limit the risk of SARS-COV-2 infection among employees.
Our easy-to-use testing program includes a dashboard to monitor who is vaccinated and when to test, consent, and delivers test results to the employee and health care provider follow up with any positive cases.
The test is simple: spit in a tube, send it to our lab, and within 24 hours the test results are available online, and also automatically sent to the employee directly, while you maintain the overview from a dashboard.
We entered into a collaboration with Yale University/Saliva Direct to prove that saliva is just as effective a sample type as the invasive and very uncomfortable nasopharyngeal (NP) swab test, which requires a healthcare worker to administer it. This test has kept the NBA playing and many corporations open throughout the pandemic.