What We're Reading: COVID-19 Variants Renamed; Employer Vaccine Mandates; Progress in Smoking Cessation Slowing

The World Health Organization simplifies the names of COVID-19 variants; updated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance suggests employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccines; study finds a record 1.1 billion smokers were reported worldwide in 2019.

WHO Renames COVID-19 Variants

In an effort to create a less technical way of describing COVID-19 variants to nonscientific audiences, the World Health Organization (WHO) will leverage the Greek alphabet, using letters like alpha, beta, and gamma, to replace the variant names of B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1, respectively. Reported by Bloomberg, a group of scientists gathered together by WHO divided the virus strains into categories as “of interest” and “of concern.” The 24 letters of the Greek alphabet will be used to term the virus strains; a new series will be announced by WHO once these letters have all been taken.

Employers Can Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination

According to an updated guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers are allowed to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine among their workforce, as well as provide incentives to workers, such as cash, to become vaccinated. As reported by CBS News, employers will still be required to provide accommodations for employees who are exempt from mandatory immunization under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Prevalence of Smoking Grows to 1.1 Billion Worldwide

In findings of a study published last week in The Lancet, a record 1.1 billion smokers, and nearly 8 million related deaths, were reported worldwide in 2019, with progress against the prevalence of smoking found to have slowed in the last 10 years. According to Fox News, results indicated that the most common health issues associated with smoking among both sexes included ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tracheal, bronchus, lung cancer, and stroke, which altogether accounted for 72% of all smoking-related deaths in 2019.