AMARILLO, TX – In light of the Delta variant, it appears that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that DME suppliers and all other providers learn to deal with the “new normal” and the challenges associated with the country attempting to return to some degree of normalcy.
When the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines became available at the beginning of 2021, the country breathed a sigh of relief. We felt we had turned the corner on COVID. However, two events have stopped us in our tracks: (1) the Delta variant; and (2) the millions of Americans who have chosen not to be vaccinated. These two events have left the CDC scrambling to provide guidance and protocols to combat the spread of this novel virus.
The information below represents the current CDC guidance and recommendations at the time that this article was submitted. It is important to note that CDC guidance and recommendations are constantly changing. Therefore, DME suppliers and providers should continuously monitor the CDC website to remain up to date with the latest guidance.
The Delta Variant
On July 27, 2021, the CDC released updated guidance on the need for COVID-19 vaccination coverage and recommended that everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission wear a mask in public indoor places, even if they are fully vaccinated. The CDC felt this recommendation was necessary given the rise in cases associated with the new Delta variant – a variant that the CDC believes to be more serious than the previous strains of the virus.
The CDC believes that (1) the Delta variant is more contagious and spreads faster than earlier forms of COVID; (2) the Delta variant might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated persons; (3) unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern; and (4) fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others, but, vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a shorter period of time.
The CDC continues to recommend that all individuals take the necessary precautions (with modifications for fully vaccinated individuals) regarding when to quarantine and when it is safe to return to work.
When to Quarantine and Isolate
Current CDC guidance differs depending on the vaccination status of each individual and whether individuals show signs and symptoms of the virus. For example, unvaccinated individuals that have been in close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has COVID-19 should quarantine according to the guidance presented in the section below. Alternatively, a fully vaccinated person who has had the same exposure to the virus does not need to quarantine unless symptoms are present. However, even if an individual is fully vaccinated, he/she should get tested 3-5 days after exposure and continue to wear a mask indoors in public places for 14 days following exposure or until testing negative for COVID-19.
When It Is Safe to Be Around Others
The current guidance is separated into four categories: (1) anyone who has been around a person with COVID-19; (2) anyone who thinks or knows he/she has had COVID-19 and presented with symptoms; (3) anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 but was asymptomatic; and (4) anyone who was severely ill with COVID-19 or has a weakened immune system caused by a health condition or medication.
- Anyone who has been around a person with COVID-19
Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after his/her last exposure to that person. However, anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and meets the following criteria does not need to stay home:
a) Someone who has been fully vaccinated and shows no symptoms of COVID-19; or
b) Someone who has had COVID-19 within the previous three months, has recovered, and remains symptoms free.
All other individuals should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure and not return to work within that timeframe.
- Anyone who thinks or knows he/she has had COVID-19 and presents with symptoms
It is acceptable for an individual who thinks or knows he/she has had COVID-19, and presented with symptoms, to be around other people if:
a) 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; and
b) The individual has gone 24 hours without a fever and did not use fever-reducing medications; and
- Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic can be around others once 10 days have passed since the person last had a positive viral test for COVID-19, and the person remains symptom free. If symptoms develop after testing positive, the CDC recommends following the guidance in subsection 2 above.
- Anyone who is severely ill with COVID-19 or has a weakened immune system caused by a health condition or medication
Individuals who are severely ill with COVID-19 or have weakened immune systems may need to stay home longer than other guidance would suggest. While it is typically acceptable for individuals to return to work within 10-14 days, severely ill or immunocompromised individuals should stay home for up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared. It is recommended that such individuals consult their doctor or an infectious control expert prior to ending quarantine and returning to work.
While the Delta variant is frustrating to many because it has caused the country to lose ground in the pandemic, it is vital that DME suppliers and all providers abide by the above recommendations and guidance. Suppliers are encouraged to establish policies to allow for remote work, if needed, and to ensure compliance with CDC guidance and protocols. The quality of care provided to patients is integrally correlated to the health and safety of the employees.
AAHOMECARE’S EDUCATIONAL WEBINAR
Buying and Selling a DME Supplier
Presented by: Jeffrey S. Baird, Esq., Brown & Fortunato & Alfonso Zambrano, Esq., Brown & Fortunato
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
1:30-2:30 p.m. CENTRAL TIME
When a person intends to buy or sell a DME supplier, there are a number of documentation and regulatory issues that must be addressed. First, the seller must take a number of steps to make itself more “attractive.” The buyer and seller need to decide whether the transaction will be an “asset” sale or a “stock” sale. The parties will need to engage in the normal transactional steps: mutual nondisclosure agreement, letter of intent, stock purchase agreement/asset purchase agreement, and other closing documents. The buyer will need to engage in three types of due diligence: financial, corporate, and regulatory. And, the parties will need to meet a number of regulatory requirements such as submitting change of ownership notifications. This program will discuss all of these (and other) issues associated with the purchase and sale of a supplier.
Kelly T. Custer, JD, is an attorney with the Health Care Group at Brown & Fortunato, a law firm with a national health care practice based in Texas. He represents pharmacies, infusion companies, HME companies and other health care providers throughout the United States. Mr. Custer can be reached at (806) 345-6343 o firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey S. Baird, JD, is Chairman of the Health Care Group at Brown & Fortunato, a law firm with a national health care practice based in Texas. He represents pharmacies, infusion companies, HME companies, manufacturers, and other health care providers throughout the United States. Mr. Baird is Board Certified in Health Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and can be reached at (806) 345-6320 or email@example.com.
 Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.
 These recommendations do not apply to people with severe COVID-19 or with weakened immune systems.