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Week in Review: Sept. 26 –Oct. 1, 2021

Oct. 1, 2021
An update on vaccine mandates, and a look at what’s happening and what might be to come for safety professionals.

Lately, we’ve been feeling like “another day, another crisis” with nary a chance to get caught up.

If you’re also feeling this way, let’s commiserate together. There’s something so freeing in being able to share your struggles and seek support. Of course, that’s why we’re all here.

It seems like there’s always one step forward, two steps backwards when it comes to COVID-19 news. That continues to be the case this week. On the plus side, new cases have started to decline and more people are getting vaccinated, thanks to those mandates. Still, the U.S. is averaging about 2,000 deaths a day, daily vaccination rates have fallen to a 7-day average of 643,000 doses per day and flu season is nearing.

We don’t have any advice to give you, in part because we don’t have much advice to give ourselves. Instead, we’re making a point to move our bodies this weekend—by going on walks outdoors, by watching some YouTube videos and by making pumpkin muffins. And we’re going to treat ourselves to a nap, because most things seem better after moving around, eating something fresh out of the oven and a restorative rest. We hope you can do the same.

An Update on Vaccine Mandates

When the US Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Comirnaty (the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine), several organizations and states instated vaccine mandates. It was only a matter of time and was, in fact, highly expected.

Many experts and onlookers watched and waited from the sidelines to see just how many employees would roll up their sleeves and how many would walk away.

This week, the earliest of those self-imposed deadlines have passed, and we’re getting a clearer picture of the situation. For the most part, it looks like employees are complying the vaccine mandates.

In August, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a state mandate for hospital and nursing home staff. At the time, about 75% had at least one shot. By Monday’s deadline, about 100,000 more were vaccinated, for a rate of 92%. Employers and the state will have to decide their next steps for those 8%, but it might not require any (or as many) temporary workers from the Philippines and Ireland that Gov. Kathy Hochul anticipated.

Some employees will refuse, and organizations that have talked the talk must now decide whether to walk the walk. United Airlines is terminating about 600 employees, less than 1% of its U.S. work force.

For a good summary of where things stand and a history of vaccine mandates (surprise: the American Revolution), read this briefing.

Reintroducing Yourself to Co-Workers

There’s been some staff turnaround since the pandemic began, what with layoffs, retirements and the Great Resignation. But even if there hasn’t been a huge staffing shake-up, you might not be working with the same people anymore.

We’ve changed. Maybe it was COVID-19. Maybe it was the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or one of the countless other incidents of police brutality or excessive use of force. Maybe it was an awareness of racial disparity or racism that sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests. Maybe it was natural disasters or climate change. Maybe it was something more personal, such as mental health struggles or the added stress of caring for an older parent or young child(ren).

Whatever the case may be, we need to be gentle with ourselves and one another as we ease back into familiar routines, including the workplace.

Some experts suggest reintroducing yourself to colleagues, sharing more of your struggles or needs, and asking questions about their well-being.

One important thing to remember: “And instead of expecting people to follow the same patterns or routines as they did before – going out for after-work drinks or working late to finish projects, for example – be open to the idea that their priorities may have changed.”

It's all about giving each other—and ourselves—credit for surviving the past two years and grace to adjust or adapt to whatever comes next.

Read more helpful advice here.

Bracing for COVID-19 and Flu Season

Health experts feared fall/winter 2020 could pack a wallop with COVID-19 and the flu. It didn’t, largely because of mask wearing and many offices, schools and public spaces were still closed. This was before the vaccines had arrived, so despite pandemic fatigue, many continued to abide by protocols to protect themselves and their loved ones, friends and co-workers.

That feels like a lifetime ago. Three different COVID-19 vaccines are readily available for those 12 and up. State and local ordinances have largely disappeared. And the doors have reopened for many schools, businesses and entertainment venues. Many experts are bracing for a tough few months.

With only 55.5% of the entire U.S. population vaccinated, the delta variant will continue to circulate. The colder weather means people will be headed inside, so once again air quality is a concern. Then there’s the upcoming holidays, where family and friends (with varying immunization rates), will most certainly gather.

This headline gives us the shivers: “Yes, you can have COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. Here’s what that could look like.” The worst part is, there isn’t much data to know what coinfection would look like or even quantify it.

"The odds of a double whammy are definitely going to increase," internal medicine physician Dr. Jorge Rodriguez told CNN. "The fever may be worse. The shortness of breath may be worse. The loss of smell and taste could be worse. And on top of all that, it could last longer."

In addition to personal plight, coinfection could create more challenges for an already besieged healthcare system whose workers are exhausted and where bed and other supply shortages could affect  others in need, such as those presenting to the Emergency Department for heart attack or those whose elective procedures must be postponed.

Medical experts continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19, which can be done at the same time, and wearing masks regardless of vaccination status.

Read the full story here.  

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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