The Battle of Helm's Deep
Sep 2, 2020


A new rapid antigen COVID-19 test is being called a “game changer” by Dr. Brett Giroir, the U.S. assistant secretary for health in the Dept. of Health and Human Services.  The test only takes 15 minutes to deliver results, costs $5, accurate at 97%, and available this month.  The test result can also be paired to a mobile app at no charge that will allow people to display their results if needed.  This rapid test is different than others in that it doesn’t need an expensive machine to run the test but requires only a coated-paper card and a small swab.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the rapid COVID-19 test emergency use authorization last week, and President Trump announced a $750 million agreement to purchase 150 million of the tests.



A new executive order from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clarifies,and tightens restrictions on the symptoms an employee has to stay home sick during the COVID-19 pandemic without facing repercussions from their employer.  Under the new order, workers must have a fever, uncontrolled cough, or shortness of breath to stay home from work – or at least two of the symptoms listed in the order.  Workers can’t stay home without being subject to repercussions if any of their symptoms can be explained by a known medical or physical condition.  Workers with the approved symptoms can stay home from work without penalty and should be treated like any employee on paid leave, if available.  The order also gives guidance to people who’ve had close contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 and are told to stay home for 14 days or until they’ve tested negative for the virus.



The State of New York’s largest workers’ compensation carrier, New York State Insurance Fund, unveiled a new program that compensates businesses for purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE).  It gives current workers’ compensation policyholders a 5% credit on their annual premiums for qualifying PPE.  Employers can get reimbursed up to $500 for stocking up on supplies like masks, goggles, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, and safety items related to the pandemic. 



In an apparent shift, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its COVID-19 testing guidelines to say some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they’ve been in close contact with someone known to have the virus.  However, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield issued a statement clarifying that the CDC is placing an emphasis on testing individuals with symptomatic illness, those with significant exposure, and vulnerable populations.  Approximately 40% of individuals who get infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.  Although the new 15-minute rapid COVID-19 test is only approved for people with symptoms, the company is looking to produce an FDA-authorized screening test. 




Hurricane Laura made landfall last Thursday in Louisiana near the Texas border as a Category 4 hurricane.  Areas in Louisiana and Texas are estimated to have suffered $8-12 billion in insured losses from Laura’s storm surge and high winds, but with residential and commercial property damages less than $500 million.  The storm spared the major population centers of Houston and New Orleans and struck more sparsely populated areas in the states.  



2020 has already seen a record number of named storms for so early in the season.  However, three-quarters of storm activity occurs after Aug. 28.  Last year, the final storm of the hurricane season – Tropical Storm Sebastien – didn’t lose its tropical characteristics until just before Thanksgiving.  Not to leave you feeling daunted, check out the amazing efforts of the NICU staff at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital who stayed during Hurricane Laura and kept 19 babies safe through the storm.


Making Our Way Around the Country


With the first significant overhaul of federal hours of service regulations in over 15 years taking effect in a little over a month, the FMCSA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance offered regulatory guidance.  The new rule, which takes effect Sept. 29 at 12:01 a.m. ET, allows drivers to split their daily required 10-hour off-duty time into segments longer than the current 8- and 2-hour split. And effectively, given a rule change that allows the shorter period to be excluded from calculation of the 14-hour on-duty limit, those splits allow drivers to pause their 14-hour on-duty clock while taking a qualifying break of at least two hours in the middle of their shift. The rule also adds flexibility options around the use of the required 30-minute break, an expansion of the use of the adverse driving conditions exception, and an expansion of the short-haul exception to the requirement to keep records of duty status (logbooks). 



The New York City Council passed a bill that will put off new construction safety training requirements for another six months.  The bill extends the deadline for new safety requirements from Sept. 1, 2020 to March 1, 2021, when workers would have to show they underwent 40 hours of mandated training.  Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Council members Carlos Menchaca and Robert Cornegy are the bill sponsors.  "As we confront the pandemic and its economic aftermath, we need to protect construction workers, who in addition to having one of the deadliest jobs in our City, are struggling to meet training requirements that could determine whether they keep their jobs or not," said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. "I'm proud the Council voted unanimously to support unions and day labor organizations who represent these workers and ensure their and our collective safety."



The author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings passed this day 47 years ago.  Although it might seem this year is in the shadow of Mordor, remember “even the smallest person can change the course of history.” Check out some good news during these challenging time.  Until next week, stay safe, stay connected, and stay well.


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