Worksite Testing for the COVID-19 Virus
As a result of the COVID-19 virus, many employers are taking steps to protect their employees. Some of these include a variety of preventive measures, such as symptom screening, physical distancing and contact tracing. But the most effective – and simplest – strategy is regular testing for the COVID-19 virus.
This approach may be especially effective in high-density workplaces that have prolonged contact (at least six feet) with other workers and in critical infrastructure sectors, including air and seat ports as well as water and communication systems. It also can be valuable in other settings, like service-providing businesses, where the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak is less pronounced.
CDC guidance encourages testing asymptomatic workers at periodic intervals, but not all employers can implement this strategy. It also is expensive, requiring a substantial investment in resources to set up the test program and administer it.
The CDC recommends that employers consider other preventative measures, such as contact tracing and masking, before launching a testing strategy. These strategies can help identify and move a sick worker to a safe location or quarantine.
In addition, a CDC study found that contact tracing is a significant contributor to reducing the number of COVID-19 naked cases in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. It can also help identify infected patients who have gone undiagnosed.
If your company is considering a testing strategy, make sure that it complies with state and federal law. Among other requirements, all testing must be consistent with local or state public health guidance and must not cause discrimination or harassment of any kind.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal for employers to subject their employees to medical examinations without reasonable notice and opportunity to consult with an attorney. It also prohibits retaliation against employees who request or require an exam.
A COVID-19 testing policy, written and posted in a prominent location, can help prevent discrimination against employees who have a medical reason for requesting an exam. It can also help reduce anxiety and fear among employees who might feel that they are being unfairly questioned about their health.
Employers can also use their testing policy to educate employees on how they should respond if they are sick at work or think someone else at their worksite is sick. The CDC has developed a series of 10 Tips to Protect Employees’ Health, which can be used as a basis for a policy.
Regardless of the method, it is important to keep in mind that COVID-19 infections are contagious and spread through close contact. Therefore, any employees who become ill or develop symptoms of the disease should not return to work until at least 10 days after they have stopped experiencing the onset of their illness. They should also wear a face covering or other means to prevent contact with other people until they have recovered completely.
To help employees understand how to follow the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 testing, employers can provide information about their testing policy at their worksite and online. They can also send a congratulatory email to employees when a positive test is received, as well as other information that helps customers and clients know that their business takes COVID-19 testing seriously.