Greater Louisville Inc. The Metro Chamber of Commerce
× Greater Louisville Inc. The Metro Chamber of Commerce

Media Center

January 6, 2022 10:54am

COVID-19 Update: Latest updates on Omicron, federal vaccine mandate, & boosters

Over the holidays, COVID-19 reemerged with a vengeance in Greater Louisville due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. We are seeing a record positivity rate of 27% and astronomical case numbers in our region, like much of the state and the rest of the U.S. While science is continuing to show this variant is substantially milder and causing less severe illness than previous variants, it still poses a major threat to disrupting our economy and businesses.

To keep our economy running, there are a few things you and your business can do to help curb the spread and mitigate impacts to our economy:

  1. Resume mask-wearing in indoor settings. Public health experts urge everyone to upgrade from cloth masks to surgical masks and claim Kn95 and N95 masks are superior at filtering out Omicron.
  2. Encourage vaccinations and boosters. Science shows that while more breakthrough cases are occurring with Omicron, the vaccines are still excellent at preventing severe illness and death. If you have not already, get vaccinated and if you’re eligible do not delay getting a booster. As business leaders, we encourage you to also work with your staff to ensure they are vaccinated and boosted. Find vaccine and booster shots. 
  3. Get tested if you have symptoms or a known exposure. While demand for tests has escalated, many sites still have same day appointments or no appointment requirements. The CDC recommends testing 3-5 days after an exposure or at the onset of symptoms. Find testing sites in Louisville here.

Federal vaccine mandate goes into effect next week
The mandate for employers with more than 100 employees to require COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing is set to go into effect next Monday, January 10. The mandate has faced legal challenges and the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on Friday.  While OSHA has said they will not fine employers until February 9, it may take businesses time to prepare their workforce. Employers with more than 100 employees may wish to prepare for the mandate to go into effect and should take the following steps:

  • Before January 10, you should assess and track the vaccination status of all employees. You should also decide if you will allow employees to provide weekly proof of negative COVID tests in lieu of vaccination and be prepared to track those tests.
  • All unvaccinated employees must wear masks at all times. This requirement went into effect in December.
  • While the mandate goes into effect Monday, OSHA will not begin enforcing the requirement or issuing fines before February. If workers are not vaccinated before February 9, employers who opt to offer a testing option must begin tracking proof of negative COVID tests.
  • Note that employers are not required to provide or pay for testing for those who opt not to get vaccinated.

The tracking and reporting requirements of the testing option will undoubtedly create additional work for businesses. If you and your business are looking for an easy system to track results or conduct on-site testing, connect with Dianne Timmering at Base10. Base10 can help you launch an OSHA-compliant system that eases the burden of testing.

Shortened quarantine guidance
Last week, the CDC announced updated quarantine guidance for those who test positive for COVID-19. If a person tests positive and they are either asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (fever-free for 24 hours), they only need to quarantine for 5 days. However, they should wear a well-fitting mask in any public space for the subsequent 5 days. This new guidance comes as data shows that people are most contagious one to two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two to three days after. The CDC has posted guidance on its website, including what to do if exposed to COVID-19.
Pfizer boosters for children & shortened waiting period
There are two pieces of news related to the Pfizer BioNTech booster. First, the FDA expanded eligibility of Pfizer’s booster dose to children ages 11-15. This is a critical step as many children head back to the classroom following the holidays. And yesterday, the FDA also reduced the waiting period between the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the booster dose to five months, down from six months due to evidence of waning immunity and the booster’s efficacy against Omicron.