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Dr. Chad Briscoe
Posted by Dr. Chad Briscoe BioAgilytix Insight, COVID-19

COVID-19 Employee Testing: Where to Begin?

COVID-19 Employee Testing: Where to Begin?

Whether used for return-to-work screening or to monitor employees’ ongoing safety, COVID-19 workforce testing is a critical component to any operational plan involving on-site teams. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends workplaces build a COVID-19 preparedness, response, and control plan with considerations for incorporating testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus the causes COVID-19, in particular to identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic workers to prevent unknowing disease transmission.

Every employer realizes that protecting employees’ health is paramount right now, but with so many uncertainties they need confidence that their testing strategy is optimized for success. If you are just starting to develop your testing plan, you might be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how best to proceed. To begin, consider these parameters:

Sample Collection Process
Depending on the type(s) of testing you would like to implement, you will need the appropriate medical supervision for sample collection in line with your state’s specific regulations. Viral testing, which is used to identify active COVID-19 infections, is performed on nasal, nasopharyngeal, or saliva swabs. They can be obtained by health professionals that are authorized to collect swab and sputum samples under their scope of practice or under emergency authority of your state, or through FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)-approved self-collection kits. Antibody testing, which identifies individuals who have developed antibodies from past exposure to COVID-19, is performed using blood samples. A phlebotomist or allied health professional trained in phlebotomy must be used to collect these samples.

A key consideration of the sample collection process should be ease for employees. The process must be as simple as possible to maximize participation in testing. We recommend looking for a service that is able to support you with kits for self-collection whenever possible, and that has the ability to deploy qualified health professionals to your workplace to manage on-site collection as needed – rather than requiring employees to make their own appointments at outside testing centers. This also consolidates and simplifies the sample collection process for those on your team who are coordinating the logistics of employee testing.

Another efficiency-driving aspect you should look for in your collection service provider is that they have the ability to requisition tests. This means your employees will not need to independently seek a prescription for the test ahead of sample collection.

Sample Testing Quality
The whole purpose of COVID-19 employee testing is to get results on which you can base decisions to minimize employee exposure risk, safely schedule shifts, optimize personal protective equipment (PPE) plans, and more. Reliability of those results is therefore of the utmost importance. It is imperative that you carefully assess the quality of the laboratory that will be handling your testing, so you can confidently trust the results they generate. For example, any lab that performs COVID-19 testing needs to be CLIA certified, but if the lab is also CLIA accredited it indicates they conform to a higher standard of laboratory quality. You will also want to understand their specific experience in infectious disease testing and confirm they have a strong track record in this area.

Results Delivery Speed
The CDC states that “testing practices should aim for rapid turnaround times in order to facilitate effective action.” Speed is necessary to make timely decisions and to immediately address known positives, particularly asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic employees, to prevent outbreaks.

It is critical your COVID-19 employee testing strategy be devised in a way that minimizes time-to-results – ideally less than 48 hours from when the lab receives your samples. One way to do this is by working with a lab that can provide test results in digital format once generated. This not only speeds access to results data, but eliminates the extra operational complexity associated with a paper-based workflow.

Frequency of Ongoing Testing
Testing employees returning to the workplace after prolonged absence is the first step of a complete testing strategy, but periodic testing is also needed to maintain a COVID-free workplace over time. Your approach for ongoing employee testing will need to be tailored to your organization’s unique workplace dynamics. The CDC points to several factors that may be helpful in determining the right interval of periodic testing, including: the density of your workplace infrastructure; the severe illness risk of infection to your employee and customer populations; the rate or change in rate of people infected in your surrounding community; and if employees tested positive during previous rounds of testing.

Ultimately, the partner(s) you engage to support your employee testing efforts need to be experienced, versed in all relevant regulatory requirements, responsive, and willing to work with you to customize a testing program that works for your business.

Seeking Expert Guidance? Start Here!

We know employers have many questions related to COVID-19 employee testing. That is why we are bringing together a panel of thought leaders from BioAgilytix and BRIO to answer them live.

“Creating an Effective & Sustainable Employee Testing Strategy: Live Q&A with the Experts!”
August 26th, 2020 | 10:30am EDT / 15:30 BST

covid-19 employee testing

In our Q&A event, these experts will share best practices they’ve seen for building safe and sustainable COVID-19 employee strategies and field audience questions. Sign up to take part in the discussion!

Register Now  

In the meantime, you can learn more about COVIDence: a complete solution for COVID-19 workforce testing brought to you by BioAgilytix in partnership with BRIO.

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