COVID-19 Testing and Reporting: How to Respond to an Employee's Diagnosis
The COVID-19 pandemic has not passed us by. More than four million people have died due to the virus. Hundreds of thousands of cases are reported every day, including tens of thousands in the United States.
Whatever size your company is, you must prepare for one of your employees to get sick. There is a lot you need to understand about COVID-19 testing and reporting, let alone responding to the virus.
How exactly do testing and reporting work? How should you prepare for one case and an outbreak at your office? What should your first steps be when someone shows up to work sick?
Answer these questions and you can succeed through the end of the pandemic. Here is your comprehensive guide.
Understand COVID-19 Testing and Reporting
There are two main types of COVID-19 tests. A viral test indicates if an individual is currently infected with COVID-19. An antibody test indicates if a person has had a previous infection.
There are two distinct types of viral tests. Both involve taking specimens from a person’s nose and mouth, and both have similar rates of accuracy.
A nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) detects acid sequences within the COVID-19 virus. The test can detect very small amounts of the virus in the human body, making it extremely accurate.
It is also easy to use, making it perfect for home or office administration. Some versions can produce results in just a few minutes, though they may be less accurate.
An antigen test examines the presence of substances that induce an immune response inside the body. The test works best for people who show signs of COVID-19, in part because symptoms are indicative of an immune response.
An antibody test requires a blood sample to find proteins that the body uses to fight infections. It can take one to three weeks for a body to make its own antibodies. This means that tests work best weeks or months after a person has contracted the virus.
The test uses only a small sample of blood, and doctors can produce results in a few hours. Testing positive does not mean that a person has developed immunity.
But it can help prove if an office has had an outbreak. People can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms. A group of positive results will allow employers and human resources professionals to adjust their social distancing policies.
Offices can receive automated COVID-19 reports through a COVID-19 management system. They can receive information from testing clinics, and they can track who in their office has gotten tested.
OSHA mandates that all employers must report any COVID-19 cases that they suspect are work-related. A case can be work-related if an employee receives the virus from another employee or a client. This requires contact tracing and testing in order to determine.
OSHA allows reports through their website or a toll-free number. It is also a good idea for employers to submit a report to their local health department. This will help them keep track of how cases are spreading.
Develop a Workplace Health Plan For COVID-19
Plan ahead for COVID-19 cases in your workplace. This will allow you to respond promptly to any case that surfaces.
Evaluate how your employees and clients could contract COVID-19. They may get it from meeting with each other, or they may catch it at home.
Adjust your outreach to clients accordingly. Opt for phone calls and video conferencing meetings over in-person engagements. If you do meet in person, go outside and keep group sizes small.
Keep your company’s travel plans to a minimum. Traveling inside the United States may be okay, but try to avoid going to unvaccinated areas. Limit your international travel, especially to countries that have low vaccination levels.
Figure out how you can lay out your office to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing. Mark six feet of space between desks and work areas, and put up signage encouraging people to wear masks.
You may require your employees to get vaccinated. They can send you photographs of their vaccination cards, and you can use software to track when they are fully vaccinated.
Find a good way that you can reach all of your employees at once. Sending out a mass email may not be effective. Make sure you have your workers’ phone numbers so you can call them in the event of an emergency.
Put resources near workstations so your employees can disinfect themselves. Put out bottles of hand sanitizer, and stock your kitchen and bathrooms with soap.
Consider when you need to close down your office entirely. If your office is already shut down, decide if you want to remain in a remote setting. Pick a benchmark for when you will open your office back up.
Conduct Daily Safety Checks
Symptoms of COVID include a cough, fatigue, sore throat, and loss of taste and smell. Educate all of your employees so they can learn how to recognize symptoms in themselves and others.
Keep in mind that COVID symptoms overlap with other ailments, including the common cold. Ask any employee who shows several symptoms to stay at home.
Put someone at the front door and have them check people’s temperatures as they come in. Anyone who has signs of a fever should be sent home. Anyone who has a significant cough should also go home, even if they are wearing a mask.
One human resources professional should visit each employee every day. They should check to see if they are wearing a mask and showing no signs of COVID-19.
They should also have a conversation with the employee. The pandemic has been extraordinarily stressful and having someone to talk to will help them relieve their anxiety.
Try to run at least one testing clinic a week. If an employee does not want to be tested at work, they can go to a pharmacy and bring back results.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. Take some steps to help respiratory health, including a smoking ban in common areas.
Isolate Sick Employees
If a sick employee shows up to work, send them home right away. You should also send home anyone who tests positive in a viral test, even if they don’t have symptoms. You can have someone go into the office and grab the things they need to work from home.
But they should immediately go back home. When they get there, give them a call and ask them if they have been in contact with anyone from work. You can also ask them if they feel they contacted the virus from work.
If they have been in contact with employees, you should tell those individuals. Send them home and have them isolate themselves for at least two weeks.
You do not have to tell your entire office if someone has COVID-19. You should not give the information of a sick person to unaffected people. Employees have medical confidentiality, and you risk violating it by telling others that they are sick.
Make arrangements for a cleaning crew to tend to the employee’s workspace when no one is around. The immediate area around them and common areas like the bathroom should also be cleaned.
Some states and cities require employers to provide paid sick leave to anyone who has COVID-19. If you live in such a location, inform your employee that they will be paid for their time at home.
Even if you are not required to, it is a good idea to provide sick leave for your employees. This will prompt them to stay home if they have symptoms. The cost of an outbreak is far more expensive than the cost of sick leave.
Protect Other Employees
Take steps after a positive test to protect your other employees. In addition to cleaning the sick employee’s workspace, you should provide proper ventilation throughout the office. Open windows and run fans so the virus carries outward.
If your business requires people to remain indoors for long periods of time, provide personal protective equipment. Give out free masks, gloves, and respirators to your employees.
Monitor the latest developments on the pandemic, and pass the news along to your workers. If you have the resources, run a vaccination clinic at your office. You can choose Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson.
Integrate COVID-19 tracking into your physical and drug screen tracking. While your employees are going to their doctors for COVID tests, ask them to get physicals as well.
Keep Track of Your Employees
Make a plan so you know what to do if an employee tests positive. COVID-19 testing and reporting are available for all businesses.
Have your employees take viral tests. Take notes on when they get vaccinated and if they test positive.
No one with an active case should enter your work environment. Send them home and talk to anyone that they may have contacted. Offer paid leave so they can stay at home for two weeks without issue.
Take advantage of the latest tracking tools. Snap Healthcare provides web-based platforms for human resources. Request your demo today.