Biden administration announces incoming vaccination requirements for large businesses 

Businesses with over 100 employees will need to either require their workforce to be fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated employees to take weekly COVID-19 tests as part of a new country-wide vaccination effort.

President Biden announced a new “six-pronged” national strategy on Thursday that his administration says will protect the country’s economy from lockdowns and further damage in the wake of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

The action plan, which Biden’s administration refers to as the “Path out of the Pandemic” details how the administration plans to increase testing and require masking, protect the country’s economic recovery, vaccinate the unvaccinated, keep schools open, protect people who are already vaccinated and improve care for those with COVID-19.

As part of the plan’s strategy to vaccinate those who have not yet been vaccinated against the virus, the Biden administration announced that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require employers with over 100 employees to either vaccinate their workers or have those workers produce weekly negative test results.

Through the OSHA requirement, employers will be mandated to provide paid time off for any employee receiving the vaccination.

The requirement could impact over 80 million workers in private sector business, according to the administration. Companies that fail to comply with the rule could face penalties as high as $14,000 per violation, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, has supported vaccination efforts but said that the most recent announcement are an overreach that will cause disruptions and confusion among businesses.

“Fact is, most businesses of all sizes have been leading the way since the start of the crisis with mitigation efforts that work best for them, their workers and their customers,” said Baldrige. “This one-size-fits-all mandate simply upends that hard work and creates, at least for now, more questions than answers.”

Biden has also signed executive orders to require all federal executive branch workers and contractors that do business with the federal government to be vaccinated.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action as part of Biden’s plan and will require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive either Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements such as hospitals, home health agencies and ambulatory surgical settings.

Governor Tom Wolf praised Biden on the administration’s most recent efforts to vaccinate against the virus, noting that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians ages 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

“I’m grateful that the Biden Administration is taking strong steps to protect the public,” he said. “I strongly support the efforts at the federal level to prioritize vaccinations, which further support my administration’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 – efforts that are working,” he said in a release.


New mask mandate could be a headache for Pennsylvania businesses

New guidance through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows anyone fully vaccinated to forgo face coverings in public settings, which could prove difficult for small businesses currently enforcing mask mandates.

Alison Beam, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, announced Thursday that Pennsylvania’s mask order will be following the CDC’s guidance. When Pennsylvania’s vaccination numbers rise over 70%, the state plans to completely lift its masking order.

Spokespersons for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA) and the Pennsylvania branch of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) see the move as positive for the state’s businesses, but noted that it may put some businesses in a precarious position.

“It’s the culmination of 14 months of these restaurant operators doing everything they can to keep their guests and employees safe,” said Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy at PRLA.

Despite the order, it is up to each individual business to decide if it will continue to enforce mask wearing among staff and customers even if they are fully vaccinated. That could leave a grey area for business owners, as it’s unlikely that the managers of an establishment will go to every unmasked customer and ask if they are vaccinated, said Greg Moreland, Pennsylvania state director at NFIB.

“I think some businesses will continue the order until everyone is unmasked,” said Moreland. “Some businesses will move forward with the guidance and hope and pray for the best but hoping and praying for the best isn’t necessarily the best option.”

Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company announced it will be follow the DOH and CDC guidelines and allow fully vaccinated guests to remove their face coverings at Hershey Park. Park visitors will be trusted to follow the guidance based on their vaccination status.

“It is important that we all continue to remain vigilant and work together to prioritize the health and safety of those around us,” said Quinn Bryner, director of public relations and strategy at Hershey Entertainment. “We appreciate our guests partnering with us in following all guidelines.”

Some of PRLA’s members have said they may continue to have their staff members wear masks if it makes guests feel more comfortable, but they will trust their guests to be honest with them, said Fileccia.

One concern that businesses may have about allowing customers to enter their stores maskless is liability.

Late last year, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed Republican-backed legislation that would have safeguarded businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits. The possibility of being liable for someone tracing the illness back to their establishment could cause business owners to continue the mask order.

“There are concerns on the liability front,” said Moreland. “For these small businesses to feel comfortable to take the sign off the door, they want reassurance that they won’t be hit with some frivolous lawsuit that could put them out of business.”

WellSpan Health offers toll-free number for those with measles concerns

WellSpan Health released a statement today, September 5, 2019, urging its patients who are experiencing measles symptoms, or who are concerned about a possible exposure, to call its toll-free hotline, 1-855-851-3641, rather than go to a care facility. This measure is intended to reduce the chance of additional exposures in the wake of a confirmed positive case of measles in the region.

A confirmed case of measles was found in an individual who was treated at two WellSpan facilities in York between Aug. 26 and 29. The individual also was at a Fuddrucker’s restaurant in York Aug. 22 and attended a performance at Hershey Theatre Aug. 23. No new cases of measles have been identified from exposure to the original confirmed case at this time.

The WellSpan Measles Exposure Hotline is currently staffed seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. by registered nurses, who will direct callers to the appropriate location for care.

Individuals who believe they may have been exposed, are experiencing symptoms, and are not WellSpan patients are encouraged to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-PA-HEALTH. Individuals who have received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination series should be safe from exposure.

Measles is a highly contagious but vaccine-preventable disease that spreads through coughing, sneezing or other contact with the mucus or saliva of an infected person. Symptoms typically appear one to three weeks after an exposure and include rash, high fever, cough and red, watery eyes.

However, anyone who was inside the impacted locations during the timeframes announced by the Pa. Department of Health last week may have been exposed. Because measles is transmitted by air, the infection risk vanishes two hours after a patient leaves a building.

WellSpan states that there is no current risk of infection at any of the locations where the confirmed case visited, including the two WellSpan care locations – WellSpan Stony Brook Health Center at 4222 E. Market St., Lincoln Highway in York; and WellSpan York Hospital at 1001 S. George St. in York. All WellSpan care locations continue their normal operations.

In its press release, WellSpan Health states that it concurs with the CDC’s recommendations that children and adults receive immunizations from preventable diseases, such as the measles. For the most current information on recommended immunizations for children and adults, visit cdc.gov.

For more information about WellSpan Health’s response to this measles exposure, visit WellSpan.org and click on the “More Info” link at the top of the page for details and a list of frequently asked questions.



Flu vaccine recommended for children 6 months and older

The flu vaccine should be given to everyone 6 months and older, as it is the best option for protection during the upcoming season, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The annual flu vaccine significantly reduces a child’s risk of severe influenza and death.

During the 2016-17 season, more than 100 U.S. children died of the flu, and thousands more were hospitalized for severe illness or complications from the virus. Historically, more than 80 percent of children who died of influenza were not vaccinated.

“Getting a flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available in your community should be on every parent’s checklist, along with other back-to-school routines,” said Flor Munoz, MD, FAAP, co-author of the report. “We know that the flu should not be taken lightly. Everyone in the household, including pregnant women, grandparents, and child care providers, should be vaccinated to help prevent its spread.”

The Academy recommends:

  • Children receive influenza vaccinations by the end of October, if possible. Children who need two doses (those 6 months through 8 years, who have not previously been fully vaccinated) should receive the first vaccine early in the season for optimal protection.
  • For the second consecutive year, the Academy supports a recommendation by the CDC not to use the live attenuated intranasal influenza vaccine, which performed poorly against influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 viruses in recent influenza seasons.
  • Special effort should be made to vaccinate all children 6 months and older who have conditions that increase their risk of complications of flu. This includes infants born preterm and those with chronic medical conditions, including asthma and other chronic lung diseases, heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic problems, and weakened immune systems, among others.
  • Influenza vaccine should be given to all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy or are in the postpartum period or are breastfeeding during the flu season.
  • All health care personnel, child care providers and staff also should receive their annual flu shot because they often care for individuals at high risk for influenza-related complications.

“Vaccination is the best available preventive measure we have against influenza.” said Henry Bernstein, MD, MHCM, FAAP, co-author of the recommendations. “Yet, there is lots of room for improvement in influenza vaccination because overall influenza vaccination rates have been suboptimal in both children and adults during the past 7 seasons.“

The influenza vaccine is given by injection into the muscle and is inactivated, meaning it does not contain a live flu virus and cannot cause the flu.

The vaccine comes in either a trivalent or quadrivalent form, which protect against three strains (2 A and 1 B) or four strains (2 A and 2 B) of the virus, respectively. While the influenza A (H1N1) virus in both formulations differs from that contained in the 2016-2017 seasonal vaccines, the influenza A (H3N2) vaccine strain and influenza B vaccine strains are the same.

In addition, antiviral medications are important in the control of influenza, but are not a substitute for influenza vaccination. Pediatricians should promptly identify children suspected of having influenza for timely initiation of antiviral treatment, when indicated, to reduce morbidity and mortality. “Clinical judgment is an important factor in treatment decisions for children who present with influenza-like illness,” said Dr. Bernstein. “The best results are seen when treatment is started within 48 hours of symptom onset.”

The lowdown on Pennsylvania’s new school vaccine requirements

When the kids go back to school, making sure their immunizations are up-to-date is a top priority.

That’s especially true this year, as newly enacted legislation has done away with a once very generous grace period.

As before, all students must have at least the first dose of a vaccine before the first day of school to be admitted to class; however, they now have just five days to complete the required schedule of vaccinations (for example, four doses of the polio vaccine), where in prior years, they had eight months.

Additionally, a fifth dose of the pertussis vaccine, as well as a vaccination against meningococcal disease, are now required for entry into seventh grade, and a second dose of the meningococcal vaccine is needed for 12th grade.

Families may still seek exemption from the state immunization requirements for medical reasons, religious beliefs, or “philosophical/strong moral or ethical” convictions.

New Pennsylvania vaccine schedule, effective 2017-18 school year

Students starting kindergarten, or in any grade thereafter, need the following vaccines:

• 4 doses of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (usually given as DTP or DTaP or DT or Td), including 1 dose on or after the 4th birthday
• 4 doses of polio, with the 4th dose given on or after the 4th birthday and at least 6 months after the previous dose; however, a 4th dose is not necessary if the 3rd dose was given at or after age 4 and at least 6 months after the previous dose.
• 3 doses of hepatitis B
• 2 doses of measles, mumps, rubella (usually given as MMR)
• 2 doses of varicella (chickenpox), or evidence of immunity

Additionally, students entering 7th grade need the following vaccines:

• 1 dose of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis
• 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine

Finally, students entering 12th grade need the following vaccine:

• 1 dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine

In-school health screenings

While we provide our schools with records of our kids’ immunizations, the schools also provide medical screenings of our children.

Vision and growth (height and weight) screenings take place every year. Additionally, proof of physical examinations are required upon entry into kindergarten or first grade (the first year of entry), and then in grades 6 and 11. If a parent or guardian cannot produce documentation of an exam by a healthcare professional, the school district will conduct a free medical examination, with the parent present if he or she wishes.

Hearing screenings are given in grades K-3, 7 and 11; screenings for scoliosis are conducted in in grades 6 and 7, and tuberculosis tests are administered in grade 9. Like the physical examinations, proof of dental treatment is required upon entry into kindergarten or first grade, and then in grades 3 and 7, and will be provided by the child’s school district free of charge if a parent or guardian cannot show that the child is under treatment.

Leslie Penkunas is the editor of Central Penn Parent.

With flu activity high in Pennsylvania, it’s not too late to get flu shot

The Department of Health is reminding everyone in Pennsylvania that there is still time to get immunized against the flu as the number of illnesses from the virus remain extremely high across the commonwealth.

“As long as the flu virus is circulating in a community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “The flu shot is still the best way to make sure you and your loved ones are protected. Now that we are in peak flu season, make sure you’re taking steps to prevent getting sick with the virus. In addition to getting vaccinated, everyone should also practice common sense prevention methods like washing your hands often and staying home from school or work when you’re sick with the flu.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recently announced that the 2016-2017 seasonal flu has reached epidemic levels, with widespread activity reported in 43 states across the country. Pennsylvania has reported widespread flu activity for the past eight consecutive weeks and anticipates that status to remain as such for the next several weeks. 33,271 influenza cases and 51 flu-related fatalities have been reported to the Department of Health so far this season.

The Department of Health recommends that anyone who has not yet received his or her flu shot should do so as soon as possible, as it takes two weeks for the body to build the resistance given by the vaccine.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first step in protecting against influenza. The CDC stresses that it is even more important for those at higher risk of getting the flu to get their flu shot. High-risk groups include:

  • Children and infants;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Seniors;
  • People with disabilities; and
  • People with health conditions.

Symptoms of the flu range from mild to severe, but severe infection can lead to hospitalization or even death, no matter your age or health status. Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills;
  • Cough;
  • Sore throat;
  • Runny or stuffy nose;
  • Muscle or body aches;
  • Headaches;
  • Fatigue; and
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

In addition to getting your flu shot, you should wash your hands often, avoid sneezing into your hands, limit touching your own face, clean doorknobs and handles and stay home from school or work when you have the flu.

For more information about the flu, visit the Department of Health website at www.health.pa.gov or follow on Facebook and Twitter.