COVID-19 Status Update: Late-Summer 2021

We had hoped to have better news about the COVID-19 situation by this time. However, with relatively low vaccination rates nationwide and the emergence of the Delta variant, cases and hospitalizations are rising quickly across the country. There are things employers can do to help keep their workforces safe as we work through this next wave.

Prevention

At this point, all employees should be vaccinated. If there is any question as to where seafarers can obtain vaccines, NAMMA has compiled an excellent resource.

Continue to work with your employees to encourage vaccine confidence and overcome barriers to vaccination. Discovery Health MD is available in the Puget Sound area to send mobile vaccination teams to your workplace.

Workplace Controls

Masking, distancing, and ventilation remain the mainstays of preventing disease transmission. Continue to advise masking in high-risk areas such as break rooms and galleys or cafeterias.

Daily symptom and temperature monitoring is still a good practice. A new early detection tool from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation can help spot cases before they become widespread outbreaks. Reach out to us to onboard your team.

Ensure any employees with positive symptoms noted on daily screenings are sent home and receive testing.

Personal Behavior

Encourage employees to engage in safe behavior at all times. It is clear that vaccinated people are also at risk for contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it, even to other vaccinated people. Masking during high-risk activities, such as indoor gatherings, is recommended. Limit gatherings, maximize ventilation and isolate if you have symptoms. The CDC now recommends that vaccinated individuals take a viral test three to five days after a known COVID-19 exposure, regardless of symptoms.

Treatment

One of the factors that has led to a decrease in mortality from COVID-19 is the availability of monoclonal antibodies for treatment, and now for post-exposure prophylaxis. Monoclonal antibodies, such as casirivimab and imdevimab, “REGEN-COV,” made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, are laboratory-made antibodies that protect against SARS-CoV-2.

Currently, these medicines are approved for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients ages 12 and older with a positive viral test and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. Some conditions that may qualify an individual for treatment with these medicines include but are not limited to:

  • age 65 or older
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • chronic kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • immunosuppression
  • cardiovascular disease

Treatment should be administered as soon as possible after a positive test and within 10 days of symptom onset. REGEN-COV is given by IV or subcutaneously, but must be done at a location that can monitor and treat allergic reactions.

Post-exposure Prophylaxis

REGEN-COV has recently been granted an FDA Emergency Use Authorization to be used as post-exposure prophylaxis in individuals at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19. The individual must have been exposed to a person with SARS-CoV-2 or be at high risk of exposure because of an occurrence of a SARS-CoV-2 infection in a shared institutional setting. It is intended for people at high risk who are not fully vaccinated or who are immunocompromised and may not have mounted an adequate immune response to the vaccine.

If you have employees with COVID-19 or an instance of close contact who may qualify for monoclonal antibody therapy, encourage them to discuss it with their personal physician.

Into the Future

As we learn more about immunity, it is appearing that booster doses of vaccine may be needed. We are awaiting FDA and CDC guidance, but it is reasonable to assume that higher-risk groups will be advised to have booster doses this fall. Additionally, immunocompromised people may not mount as robust an immune response and may soon be advised to have a third dose to complete the primary series.

 

If You Can, Please Get Vaccinated

Health care systems are feeling the strain of the increase in cases. Do your part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

It is clear that vaccines are safe and highly effective against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

Unfortunately, there are many people who are on immunosuppressant medications or who are immunocompromised that may not benefit from vaccination as much as others.

It is everyone’s responsibility to protect others in our society that may be more vulnerable to disease. Get vaccinated, wear a mask in high-risk situations, get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed, and seek treatment if you are in a high-risk category.

Contact Discovery Health MD for assistance with testing, vaccines, workplace safety protocols, or help with workplace outbreaks.

We are here to help!

About the Author:

Dr. Ann Jarris is a Maritime and Remote Medicine Specialist based out of Seattle, WA. She has practiced as a physician for over 15 years in urban and remote settings. Her experience is in occupational, emergency, wilderness and virtual medicine. Dr. Jarris leads innovation and research efforts at Discovery Health MD as Co-Founder and CEO.

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