Week in Review: February 18

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Industry News

Many Minneapolis employers rebooting return-to-office plans

Some Minnesota employers have decided to reboot their back-to-the-office plans as the omicron virus wave continues to recede, with the city of Minneapolis set to switch to its hybrid plan Monday. "It's very exciting," said Steve Cramer, chief executive of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, who heard from three of the top 15 downtown employers Thursday that they have reinstated return-to-work plans. "This is a definite shot in the arm coming out of a cold, omicron-dominated January. I'm confident March and April will bring more announcements like this." Xcel Energy officials in a Downtown Council panel on Wednesday said the return date for Xcel's 6,000 remote workers is March 7. Wells Fargo told employees in a letter the same day that it was resuming its voluntary "early return" to the office effective immediately. Via Star Tribune

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CDC expected to update mask guidance as early as next week

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to loosen its indoor masking guidelines to states soon, according to several people familiar with the matter. The agency’s update could come as early as next week. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, is expected to discuss masking guidance Wednesday at a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing. Nothing has been finalized yet, but the CDC is considering a new benchmark for whether masks are needed, basing it on the level of severe disease and hospitalizations in a given community, two people familiar with the situation said. Via NBC News

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Pfizer, BioNTech Delay FDA Request for Vaccines for Children Under 5

Pfizer and BioNTech announced Friday that they are delaying completing their FDA authorization request for their COVID-19 vaccine intended for children under five. The FDA advisory panel was originally scheduled to meet and review the data this week; it has now been postponed. Via The Hill

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Mayo Clinic News

What do the next 6 months look like for the COVID pandemic?

Nothing about the future course of the COVID-19 pandemic is certain. The coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 infections, is really difficult to predict. “The absolute truth of the matter is no one knows,” says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group…“Every time we allow this virus to infect somebody, it’s like giving the virus a lottery ticket and increasing the chance that we're gonna see mutations,” Poland says. “It’s a crapshoot.” So it’s very likely a new variant will emerge, and the question then is how severe will it be. “We could face another variant that basically takes us back two years, and we start all over again. That’s one of the possibilities,” Poland says. Via Fortune

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Diagnosis: He could barely walk, and he was seeing double. What was wrong?

Mayo Clinic professor of medicine Rick Kennedy says a slump in cases is expected to continue this spring and possibly into this fall. Kennedy says right now there's a similar variant to omicron is circulating called BA.2 but he says it's the variant after where all bets are off.  He explained, "We will see another variant, we don't know when. It will be a highly transmissible variant because it's got to compete with the current variant because Omicron is very transmissible. We don't know whether it will cause more severe or less severe disease. That's really up to the virus and so far we haven't seen any consistent pattern." Via New York Times

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Reports Russian skater took banned drug trimetazidine puzzle experts

A drug you most likely can’t pronounce has emerged as a breakout star of these Olympic games in Beijing. That’s after 15-year-old Russian skater Kamila Valieva reportedly tested positive for a banned heart drug. “I cannot imagine a figure skater taking this drug. It’s one big head scratcher. I can’t imagine a scenario where she would have taken it,” said Dr. Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and expert in human performance...“Why things get banned is — anything that has a remote possibility of influencing performance gets banned. You can get therapeutic use exemptions for medically legit drugs. Asthma drugs are the most common,” Joyner said. Via NBC News

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Chantell Canfield

Chantell Canfield is a web content coordinator for Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She began working for Mayo Clinic in 2021.