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COVID-19: As offices reopen, here’s what to expect if you’re worried about getting sick on the job

COVID-19: As offices reopen, here’s what to expect if you’re worried about getting sick on the job

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A brave new world. Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

If you’re among the tens of millions of people returning to work or preparing to do so after months sheltering in place, you may be worried it will put you and your family at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The dilemma may be especially stark for the millions of Americans who can expect to see a significant cut in their unemployment insurance benefits near the end of July, when the US$600 per week subsidy from the federal government is set to expire.

As a professor specializing in employment law, I don’t have a lot of reassurance to offer. Employment law is a patchwork at the best of times – let alone during a global pandemic – and legal protections may not cover your situation. Like so many of the challenges people are facing right now, you may be mostly on your own, negotiating the least bad of many bad options.

Here is a basic overview of what your options are under some common scenarios.

I’ve been called back to the office, but I don’t like the idea of being in an enclosed space for nine hours a day.

Workers have good reason to worry about indoor spaces, as scientists increasingly acknowledge that the virus may be airborne.

If you have a medical condition that makes you especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means your employer needs to engage in a dialogue with you to figure out if there is a way to limit your exposure – such as remote work, a temporary reassignment or a modified shift.

Alternatively, some states are allowing medically vulnerable workers to refuse work and remain on unemployment insurance.

[The Conversation’s newsletter explains what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic. Subscribe now.]

If the business is opening in defiance of a state or local order, you might be able to file a complaint with a state workplace health and safety agency. Or you could try negotiating a temporary or intermittent remote work arrangement with your employer.

Everyone else has little choice but to head back to the office.

Law professor Michael Z. Green and the author discuss the difficult choices workers face in returning to work.

I believe I’m being asked to work in unsafe conditions.

If you live in a state or city that has adopted a mask requirement – and your worksite is not allowing or enforcing the mask rules – look into how that requirement is being enforced. In Oregon, for example, the governor has tasked the state Occupational Safety and Health Agency with enforcing the rule. By contrast, the Texas governor’s mask order is being enforced – somewhat inconsistently – by local law enforcement.

For other safety-related concerns, the first thing you are expected to do is talk to your employer about the unsafe condition. Be specific about the condition that concerns you and the fact that you are worried about your safety.

If you are unionized, conveying your concern to the union will enable it to address the problem on behalf of everyone. Even if you’re not unionized, banding together with other employees to advocate for safer working conditions is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

If your employer does not address your safety concerns, you can complain to the state workplace safety agency or the local branch of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency should send an inspector to examine the situation or at least send a letter to the employer inquiring about your complaint.

In the meantime, you should refuse to work only if you have no “reasonable alternative” and the unsafe condition would pose a “real danger of death or serious injury.”

I have to go to work but have children at home and no child care options.

If you work for a company with fewer than 500 employees, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. But if you’ve been using this leave over the spring or summer, you may be in a dicey situation by the fall if schools do not fully reopen.

Beyond those 12 weeks of leave, companies are not required to make accommodations for employee child care issues. But failing to do so can make for bad PR, as Florida State University discovered when it tried to ban parents from watching their kids while working remotely.

I live with a family member who is in a vulnerable population, and I don’t want to expose the person to the virus.

If you need to care for the family member – and work for a company with fewer than 500 employees – you may be eligible for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Your employer might request documentation that a health care provider advised the family member to self-quarantine.

Otherwise, you may be out of luck – and may not even get unemployment insurance if you refuse to work. That may mean doing your best to limit your exposure at work and transmission at home.

I think I just got sick from exposure to the coronavirus at work.

You should be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act if you work for a company with fewer than 500 employees. If you are still sick after that, you may be eligible for Family and Medical Leave. You’ll also want to check your company’s sick leave policy.

You might be eligible to file for workers’ compensation, which covers medical costs and provides some wage replacement for workers who are injured because of work. State law varies a lot when it comes to workers’ compensation, including whether infectious diseases like COVID-19 count as a workplace injury. Your claim will also depend on whether you can show that you contracted the coronavirus at work – as opposed to exposure from other places. Some states are issuing presumptions that certain kinds of front-line workers – like health care workers and first responders – contracted the virus at work.

My company asked me to sign a contract saying I waive my legal rights if I contract COVID-19.

If you are presented with a waiver to return to work, consider asking whether you are required to sign it. Sometimes workplace contracts are actually optional, but you may not find out without asking directly or reading the fine print.

But even if signing is mandatory, workers compensation claims are generally not waivable. In other words, if you contract COVID-19 as a result of a workplace exposure, a waiver form shouldn’t be a barrier to filing a claim and potentially receiving compensation.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 18, 2020.

Elizabeth C. Tippett does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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