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Fill me in: Last week’s Path Forward featured a group of five experts hosting live “Ask Me Anything” sessions about COVID-19.
On topics ranging from how rapid testing works to which vaccines are best to whether employees can require employees to get vaccinated — the experts fielded them all in real time.
The Path Forward is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series designed to help business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy and plan for a post-pandemic world.
What happened? The panelists zeroed in on a few major themes:
- The importance of getting vaccinated as soon as possible and encouraging your employees, family members and friends to do the same.
- The key role played by mask wearing in “crushing” the COVID-19 virus.
- The important role employers can play in encouraging their workers to get vaccinated.
They also discussed the possibility of “booster” vaccine shots becoming a reality in the near future and the likelihood of COVID-19 vaccine passports for future international travel.
“Where possible…employees should be encouraged to become vaccinated. Certainly, frontline employees who are working and having contact with customers or others.” – Larry Lorber, counsel, Seyfarth Shaw LLP
“Federal regulations require that employers consider bonafide religious objections to vaccination or medical exemptions.” – Lorber
“The CDC has made clear even if you believe you’re exposed to COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine and you do not need to test. Unless, of course, you’re symptomatic. If you begin to feel symptoms of any type then, indeed, you should test.” – Mara Aspinall, professor of practice, Biomedical Diagnostics, Arizona State University
“Absolutely yes, COVID tests do work for the new variants.” – Aspinall
“The best [COVID] vaccine is the one that you can get today…All the vaccines that are currently approved: the Johnson & Johnson, the Moderna, and the Pfizer all seem to reduce chances of severe disease, hospitalization, and death.” – Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of Boston Medical Center’s Special Pathogens Unit
“If you end up getting COVID-19 while you’re pregnant, you’re likely to have a more severe course of this disease compared to those who are not pregnant… Pregnant women should highly consider potentially having this vaccine after discussion with their OBGYN.” – Dr. Bhadelia
“It’s not likely that we’ll have a vaccine for elementary and middle school kids any time before the end of this year or early 2022. There are some exceptions though. 12-16 year-olds may have vaccines sooner. 16-18 year-olds already have vaccines. We’re walking down the age range.” – Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC Director
“You’re going to have to have a certificate of vaccination to enter certain countries—that’s just the reality.” – Dr. Frieden
“I do think COVID-19 is here to stay for a long period of time…I think by the summer, we’re going to be getting a good deal toward the new normal. And by the fall, we’ll be at the new normal, unless a dangerous variant emerges…But we will see some changes: We’ll have to test, and trace and vaccinate. We’ll maybe want to wear masks increasingly.” – Dr. Frieden
“A business may have employees, a venue, and a desire to vaccinate people, but you always need partnerships: with the state health department, maybe the city. If you have a large site, you need the police department, the fire department…Then, you need a healthcare service provider.” – Torsten Pilz, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer, Honeywell
Our take: Don’t forget — wearing a mask and social distancing make a big difference in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus.
It’s also vital that Americans get vaccinated or have a plan to get vaccinated once supplies become available for their group. The approved vaccines are safe, widely available, and help protect you, your family and others — so make getting one a priority. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area, contact your local health department.
What you can do: Consider joining the Rally for Recovery Commitment, a U.S. Chamber-led program encouraging every company and organization to take three basic, but important steps to get the country back to health and American workers back to work:
- Encourage mask wearing and social distancing in the workplace.
- Reduce barriers to employee vaccinations.
- Communicate with your customers and communities about how to stop the spread of the virus.
In addition, the White House selected the U.S. Chamber as a founding member of the new COVID-19 Community Corps, a program to share the latest science-based information with leading community organizations to help inform Americans about the importance of vaccinations.
Also, continue to join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect you workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus.