Why employers should care for their employee’s health during pandemic (COVID-19)?
Employees are the backbone of a business and their health and safety are an imperative part of a successful business. Protecting the health of your employees during these trying times is more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for any employer seeking to provide a healthy working environment. As lockdown measures are gradually relaxed and employees start coming back to work, you need to assure them that their safety and health is a top priority.
Transparency is key to your ability to reassure your employees their health and safety is valuable to the company. Showing them you have a plan for addressing COVID-19 through employee testing as they return to the workforce may help to reduce anxiety and improve morale. Demonstrate your commitment to their health through your planned response to COVID-19 – including antibody and active disease testing, OSHA cleaning protocols, workflow evaluations, and position assignments to ensure everyone is able to do their best work while also staying safe and healthy.
A stepwise model to follow to ensure that employee health screening and required response is being implemented in your organization is outlined below.
Step 1: Learn
Keep your workforce safe by providing workplace covid testing to accurately identify sick employees and Antibody Testing to clear for work employees who have been previously exposed and may now be immune.
Step 2: Assess
Continually monitor testing reports with HR to track close contacts of cases for potential risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Step 3: Engage
Ensure COVID-19 positive employees feel supported by telemedicine physician guidance and educational resources while they manage their health at home.
Step 4: Act
Understand which work areas or positions are developing positive cases, and then adjust workspaces or flows and increase cleaning protocols to reduce the risk of contact spread.
Your company is as strong as the workforce that powers it
The uncertainty in determining the extent of the exposure of the virus amongst your employees is the greatest concern for most employers. However, you don’t have to wonder and worry who is protected and who is vulnerable. Nor do you have to be concerned if an ill employee has COVID-19 or something else.
As America eases social distancing incrementally, knowing which of your employees are protected will help you create a strong return to the marketplace. You need to make informed decisions about who can work in close contact positions and who needs to continue to telework or be temporarily positioned in roles that have minimal close contact.
Because some people are asymptomatic for the disease, not everyone who had COVID-19 will know they had it. Not only is this knowledge important for management, but it may also be reassuring for employees as they face the uncertainty of returning to the workplace to know if they had COVID-19 in the past and are possibly immune.
As we aim to return to normal routines, knowing if you have COVID-19 antibodies can help people feel reassured of their own safety and their ability to fill essential roles while also helping protect those that are still vulnerable while we wait for a treatment for active disease and a vaccine for prevention to be developed.
Similarities & differences between COVID-19, Influenza, and Common Cold
Many people who develop COVID-19 have mild symptoms to none at all. Thus, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold, the flu, and mild COVID-19. All three conditions are caused by different viruses, yet they share many common signs and symptoms. This chart can help familiarize you with the similarities and differences between the conditions. Please keep in mind that not all people experience any given illness the same, due to their age, environment and other underlying health conditions. If you think you have influenza or that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider right away for possible testing.
Understanding how a virus spreads
A virus is an infectious particle that can only live outside of a host for a brief period of time. For COVID-19, the virus is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets that enter the air from an infected person and then either get into the nose, eyes, or mouth of another person, or that land on the surface of an object that is then soon after touched by another person who then touches their nose, eyes, or mouth – infecting themself.
Once a virus enters a person’s body, it infects a cell in their body. It then uses that host cell to begin repeatedly reproducing itself. The body’s immune system recognizes it is under attack and produces antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies are proteins that attach themselves to the surfaces of the virus (antigen), allowing other immune system cells to attack and destroy the virus. The antibodies that are produced are specific to the antigens of that specific virus.
Hence, even after a person’s body has attacked and killed the virus, some of the antibodies the body produced remain in the immune system. This functions like a memory for the immune system, in that, if the body is exposed to the same virus again the immune system will typically remember the first exposure and reactivate the antibodies to destroy the virus again. This keeps the person from becoming ill again, producing immunity to that virus in the future.
The Antibody Test is used to identify who was previously infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and may have recovered. Rather than looking for active COVID-19 infection, antibody testing looks for antibodies produced by the body when a person was fighting off the infection.
This process is powerful because it can be used to help identify who is most likely immune to COVID-19, meaning they are the lowest risk for future COVID-19 infection and are thus the best candidates from a disease prevention standpoint to serve in positions requiring close contact with others or that involve frequent contact with surfaces touched by other people who may have active COVID-19.
Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is believed to have moved from animals to also infecting humans in Wuhan, China near the end of 2019. Since then, COVID-19 has been rapidly spreading around the world, with those at the highest risk for severe disease including the elderly, pregnant women, individuals with certain medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease) and those that are immune-compromised.
That said, as the disease spreads doctors are identifying more cases of severe illness in otherwise young, healthy individuals. As we are learning that anyone can be seriously impacted by COVID-19, it becomes even more important to protect each other and ourselves by providing safe workspaces that reduce opportunities for disease to spread.
There currently is not an approved treatment for COVID-19, nor is there a preventive measure available such as a vaccine. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets that come from the nose or mouth when sneezing, coughing, talking, or even breathing. That means it will become imperative to find out who has already had COVID-19 and thus may be immune from getting it again. These are the people who can lead the charge to re-open America by working in positions with the greatest risk of exposure, allowing the vulnerable to work in more protected positions or telework until a vaccine and/or treatment is developed.
Protecting Your employee health & safety
There are two tests to determine which of your employees are currently infected with the COVID-19 virus and which of them have already been infected and are immune to it.
1. COVID-19 Test for active SARS-CoV-2 Virus
The laboratory tests for COVID-19 look for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is a diagnostic test that identifies people with active COVID-19.
2. COVID-19 Antibody Test
ixlayer offers Antibody Testing for COVID-19 to help identify people who were previously infected and have possibly recovered from COVID-19. The COVID-19 antibody test is a serological (blood) test that has rapid turnaround and is evaluated in one of our CLIA-certified and/or CAP-accredited partner laboratories, giving you fast, accurate information so you can make informed dynamic decisions.
Why test for COVID-19 antibody test?
COVID-19 Antibody Test is essential to enable you to assess who is immune to the virus. How do you determine who is safe to return to work? Who should be assigned to close contact positions? Make informed decisions as you face these questions by knowing which of your employees may have already had COVID-19.
Implementation of a clinical testing program
Employers can be instrumental in establishing a framework that can supplement the national public health system. By testing employees to confirm that workers are either not infected with SARS_CoV-2 or are immune due to prior infection may be the most effective tool to gradually get your organization back to work. You could facilitate broad and frequent testing of your employees and require certification that they are not currently infected before they come back into the workplace.
Employees covid testing can be done daily or weekly according to factors such as the region where they come from or the type of work they are engaged in. Once the spread of the disease shows a decreasing trend, the testing frequency could be relaxed. Testing can be in the form of lab-based PCR tests that look for viral RNA to consumer antibody tests that look for immunoglobulin.
All employees, whose test results show that they are not actively infected or immune from prior infection would be eligible for a ‘certificate of non-infection”. These certificates would expire based on testing protocols, which would vary based on the risk associated due to geography or type of work. The employees would need to get another employee health screening done to acquire an updated certificate on the expiration of the current certificate.
The implementation of covid testing for employees within the organization will be instrumental in dealing with any anxiety on the part of the employees and will also be an essential tool to assist you in making more informed decisions regarding your employees.
Related article: Technology Solutions for COVID-19 Testing
How are COVID-19 testing and antibody adminstered?
The COVID-19 Clinical Test looking for the active disease is administered by collecting a respiratory sample from the nose and/or throat of the individual.
The Antibody Test is administered by collecting a blood sample, either from a vein or a finger poke. This may be conducted with an at-home clinical testing kit or in an office setting.
The respiratory or blood sample is sent to a partnering clinical lab for analysis. The determination of which partner lab we send the sample to is based on each of the labs’ daily capacity, so we can ensure the delivery of rapid results.
Protect the vulnerable who haven’t already been infected
More than likely, not all of your workforce will have been infected with COVID-19 by the time they return to work or school. While periodic antibody testing is useful to identify who has been exposed to the disease and may have recovered without ever developing a symptom, the COVID-19 Clinical Test is also important for screening for active infection in your still vulnerable workforce who have yet to be infected.
The purpose of social distancing is to slow the rate that COVID-19 spreads, so as to not overwhelm the American healthcare system. If we suddenly end all social distancing and let COVID-19 readily spread amongst people who haven’t had it, we risk the second wave of ill people and burden on the healthcare system.
Hence, offering the COVID-19 Clinical Test to employees with symptoms or who have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 person can help employees learn if they now have an active case of COVID-19, so they can take steps to isolate themselves from others so as to not spread the disease and learn how to best care for their health while their body fights the virus.
Making informed decisions
Once employees return back to work, you will need to make informed decisions regarding employee placement and possible relocation within the organization. Organization structures will need to be reviewed in line with the number of employees returning back after the lockdown. Decisions will need to be made regarding the positioning of employees who may not be immune and are at risk of acquiring the virus.
A structured testing program within the organization will go a long way in assisting employers to make strategic and potentially challenging decisions with the start of the businesses after the lockdown in an uncertain environment. The welfare of your employees will hold paramount importance and as an employer, you will have a social and legal obligation to ensure the safety of not only your employees but also your customers.
ixlayer clinical testing platform for COVID-19 and COVID-19 Antibody Test
Ixlayer offers a platform, whereby the organizations and researchers, healthcare systems and physicians and clinical laboratories can each focus on their critical components and integrate their roles to facilitate COVID-19 testing in a swift, timely manner. It ensures the delivery of Clinical testing and the end-to-end solution brings together all of the components needed to deliver complex testing and results to patients. Results of your COVID-19 testing can be made
At a time when the demand for the testing is clearly more than the supply, the integration of all components of the testing process within a platform is instrumental in ensuring that you have access to all the points of testing in one place at one time.
Not all people who have active COVID-19 present with the same symptoms and some have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic), which makes identifying everyone with COVID-19 difficult without a laboratory test. Depending on the person, symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to the cold, influenza, and other conditions, which make it hard to determine what is making them ill. Quarantining only people who begin to feel ill can’t completely protect the workforce, as asymptomatic people can still spread the virus that causes COVID-19 through their respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and even talking or breathing.
Hence, the only way to ensure you aren’t bringing people to work with active COVID-19 is to test for the presence of the virus in their respiratory droplets. Employees with symptoms or employees that have had close contact with a person who has confirmed COVID-19 should be tested to determine if they have active COVID-19 so they can take steps to self-isolate to protect those around them.