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COVID-19 Virus Testing for Employees

Keep workplace and employers safe & healthy during COVID-19

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Almost no country has been spared as the novel coronavirus swept the globe in 2020. It’s changed our perspective of life as we know it. The COVID-19 pandemic kept us in our homes for months straight, reoriented our relationship with friends, relatives, the outside world, and made touch a taboo. Life for some came to a standstill, while others faced the frightening new normal. The pandemic is continuing on to reshape our lives and rethink our way of living as nations cannot stay shut in their homes forever.

In January 2020, when the virus rose initially, the Hubei province in China underwent a lockdown. By March, several states in the US issued stay-at-home orders but with economies crippling and people losing their jobs and businesses, the governments made a tough choice to gradually reopen their cities. The enterprises happily obliged to this decision and quickly reopened their shops, factories, and offices, allowing people to resume their work. However, this decision did not come with ease as the challenge of person-to-person transmission at workplaces is very much lingering on everyone’s head. And with the second wave already hitting the world, employees and organizations must introduce and implement effective techniques to keep their workplaces safe and free from the virus.

This article will explore the basic reasons that lead to the spread of the -dreadful COVID-19 that has killed over 250,000 Americans as of November 2020, along with preventive measures employees should take to maintain a healthy workplace environment.

How COVID-19 Spreads

COVID-19 spreads when someone infected with the virus exhales or coughs, they release the tiny droplets of disease-ridden fluid. These micro droplets fall on nearby objects and surfaces, for example, mobile phones, workstations, desks, papers, tables, etc. Other people have a high possibility of catching the virus by just touching such contaminated objects and surfaces - and then, intentionally or not, touching their own eyes, mouth, or nose.

Also, suppose a person is standing within the territory of one meter of another person infected with COVID-19. In that case, the person can catch it by inhaling the droplets exhaled or coughed out by the infected person.

In other words, COVID-19 spreads the same way any different influenza does and most people infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and then recover in the same way it happens with the common flu. Nevertheless, some people experience symptoms that are not mild but more serious, and in such situations, they may require hospital care. The risk of severe illness rises with age; people age above 40 are at high-risk as they are more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weak immune systems and people with diabetes, blood pressure, and lung and heart disease are also very much exposed to serious infection.

Important: A person is thought to be most contagious when he/she is most symptomatic (i.e., cough, and/or shortness of breath, experiencing fever, body pain). But some blowout might be possible before people even show signs; there have been reports of this kind of asymptomatic transmission with the coronavirus, but this is not believed to be the primary way the virus spreads.

Although the United States has implemented public health measures to minimize the virus's spread and has asked the public to stay indoors as much as possible, the number of new cases of COVID-19 is still speeding up. It is observed that indoor spaces where people are in large numbers (like bars, recreational venues, and offices) present the highest risk, majorly because of the absence of protective measures against the virus.

How it affected Workplaces

COVID-19 has potentially disrupted the social and economic order on a global scale. Given the condition that it is widely spread because of person-to-person interaction; the economy experienced the most intense impact. The WHO –World Health Organization initial orders to businesses to shut down the on-ground operations and do work-from-home led to a significant blow to the job market: unemployment in the U.S. alone reached staggering numbers with over 16 million people filling jobless claims in three weeks from late March to early April, disrupting the U.S. labor market. It was soon realized keeping the country shut down is not the solution and gradually offices reopened from June 2020.

Following impacts were felt during and after the lockdown:

  • Challenges of work from home: Due to the workforce's non-availability at the sites, delayed productivity was reported. Deliveries and shipments from geographic locations were badly affected. Either the deliveries got canceled or postponed with or without notification.
  • Effect of low revenues: Because of the low production and reduction of nearly no sales, the organizations took several workforce cost reduction measures, including cutting salaries and wages, no growth policy for the year 2020, terminations, and holiday cancellation. With revenues under pressure, by September 2020, over 100,000 businesses in America closed down permanently.
  • Half resources allowed back at work: Employees showed resistance in returning to work out of fear of exposure because of compromised environment and lack of preventive measures in office sites. While many have children or the elderly back home, the risk of bringing the virus back to them from work is a high-possibility which everyone wants to avoid.

Second Wave – COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic flared the globe in early 2020, experts associated with WHO (World Health Organization) wondered if there would be certain waves in the coronavirus pandemic cases. Texas, Florida, and California saw an increased number of coronavirus cases early on, followed by a decrease, are now facing the "second wave" with a roaring number of cases. WHO – World Health Organization confirmed the tally approximate of 14 million cases globally.

Like elsewhere worldwide, many governments –national, regional, and local have announced a ban on social gatherings on over ten people, gym closure, and nightclub. Governments are trying to prevent and put down the fresh outbreaks to keep their economies running somehow. Very keen to revive the economy, authorities want to see the struggling business that depends on the ground to bounce back. Now comes the most challenging part — getting employees back to work while keeping workplaces virus-free. Businesses and Organizations have set up new protocols, reinvented work schedules, and revamped the offices and buildings for social distancing so that people can get back to their offices and workplaces healthy and safely amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce the Risk

This section describes necessary steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure that causes COVID-19 in their workplace.

1. Basic measurements:

For most employers, protecting their staff and workers will depend on stressing necessary safety measures. As appropriate, all employers should be implementing good infection and hygiene control practices, including the following:

  • Encourage and promote frequent and thorough hand washing by providing workers, customers, and workplace visitors with a place to wash their hands. If running water and soap are not instantly available, provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers or hand- rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • If workers are sick, allow them to stay home.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering and emphasize wearing a mask.
  • Employees not wearing masks and gloves should not be allowed to enter the office premises.
  • Social distancing should be implemented. Places such as meeting rooms, break rooms, warehouse floors, and smoke rooms where employees come together, increasing the risk of virus transmission, should be kept under surveillance.

2. COVID-19 Assessment For Employees:

After the above mentioned necessary measures, it is also recommended by CDC-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to further perform the following testing techniques to promote a safe environment.
Automatic Temperature Screening System
An automatic temperature screening test is conducted whenever an employee or a visitor enters the office premises to ensure the workplace's safety and efficiency. The screening can be performed by thermal cameras that offer impressive accuracy and speed.

The tool provides more powerful benefits in preventing the virus's spread, from all the locations where there is a possibility of 15 people or more coming in contact with one another at the same time, for example, warehouses, banks, stores, pharmacy, construction, offices and many more as it is touchless, keeping the employees and clients as safe as possible.

Well, temperature screening is also encompassed in the initial screening test; however, temperature check alone is insufficient.
Self-Assessment Test
Since more than 30% of COVID-19 cases do not feel feverish, it is best to also back your automatic temperature screening system with a self-assessment test. The test can be taken both verbally or via various self-assessment tools easily available online. The self-questionnaire employee, before every shift, on a daily basis, a listof five basic questions: Have you suffered from any of the following symptoms later after you left work or the last time you were here? Please respond with a "Yes" or "No" to each question: Cough? Sore throat? Shortness of breath? Muscle ache? Fever? For online tools, you can also download and use our easy-to-use Self-Assessment app “Worksafe by TrueCare24”. The app allows employees to self-assess themselves each day before heading to work. Based on their responses, the app guides them if you should go to work or stay home for quarantine purposes.
A Checkup By a Health Care Professional Available at the Workplace
Suppose a worker responds "Yes" to any of the screening mentioned above questions or temperature check shows above 99. The worker should be masked, isolated, and further evaluated by a professional health nurse. The health nurse or any other dedicated resource will again check the employee's temperature with an aural (ear) or oral thermometer. The employee will be asked detailed questions about sickness and exposure history. Employees with recorded temperatures of 100.4° or beyond are considered symptomatic for COVID-19 even if no other symptoms are there. The occupational health nurse will decide if the employee can return to work, be seen by a health care provider, or be tested as per the protocol and then return home to self-isolate and wait for test results. Suppose a professional health nurse is unavailable, and a person's screening temperature is 99.5° or above and cannot be verified through another method. In that case, they should be further referred for testing out of an abundance of caution and should be sent home.
Onsite COVID-19 Virus - PCR and Antigen Tests
On all the locations where the number of employees is 15 or beyond, employers can conduct an onsite COVID-19 PCR or Antigen tests to ensure worksite safety: - Under the PCR test, a nasal swap is taken which determines who has the COVID virus and who doesn’t. - Under an antigen test, sample from the respiratory tract of a person is taken. These are the best tests as they give results within 30 minutes. Warehouses, offices, food production organizations, etc., are some of the places where it is difficult to work without human to human interaction. Workers present at such locations are at high-risk and should undergo the virus test to ensure their safety and those around them. An onsite COVID-19 virus test under the supervision of any health nurse or dedicated outsourced team of professionals is essential to understand who is actively infected and should be quarantined and stop the virus spread further.
Antibody Test:
An antibody test is for those who were previously infected by the virus. In an antibody test, your blood sample is taken and is examined for certain types of proteins that help fight off the Covid infection and assist you in protection against the disease again.

Your previously-infected workers should not return to work until their antibody test results are not positive for 2 consecutive times within 7 days apart. A positive antibody test means they are healthy again and will not be transmitting their Covid-19 bacteria to their co-workers and surrounding people. Again, you can have the antibody test conducted by the health nurse at your workplace or call an external team of professionals to conduct the test for you on your employees.

Final Thought

Organizations must not take the chance on COVID-19. Employee’s testing at work is an important measure as their healthy and safe presence is crucial for many businesses. Even if you get the PCR, antigen or antibody test done once, that does not mean that you let go of regular screening and primary measurements. Until the virus is out there, and you have to keep your business running, you have to take precautions.

To further discuss the types of safety measures you can take, you can contact TrueCare24.