Friday, March 19, 2021

Coronavirus Update 3-19-2021: CDC is now recommending COVID-19 screening tests of asymptomatic employees of certain employers

The CDC is now recommending that certain non-healthcare employers test asymptomatic employees for COVID-19. According to the CDC, this screening "may be useful to detect COVID-19 early and stop transmission quickly" and can be done in done "in addition to symptom and temperature checks, which will miss asymptomatic or presymptomatic contagious workers." 

Which types of workplaces are included in this recommendation?
  • Workplaces with an increased risk of introducing COVID-19 to the public (e.g., workplaces where workers are in close contact with the public, such as restaurants or salons, or workplaces in communities with moderate to substantial transmission);
  • Workplaces where there is a higher risk of transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., workplaces where physical distancing is difficult and workers might be in close contact, such as manufacturing or food processing plants, or workplaces that provide congregate housing for employees such as fishing vessels, offshore oil platforms, farmworker housing or wildland firefighter camps); and
  • Workplaces where COVID-19 infections among employees will lead to greater negative impact, such as
    • Workplaces in remote settings where medical evaluation or treatment may be delayed
    • Workplaces where continuity of operations is a high priority (e.g., critical infrastructure sectors)
    • Workplaces with a high proportion of employees at increased risk for severe illness
When and how often should this testing be conducted? The CDC recommends initial testing of all workers before entering a workplace, periodic testing of workers at regular intervals, targeted testing of new workers or those returning from a prolonged absence (such as medical leave or furlough), or some combination of approaches. Because COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days the CDC further recommends that this screening be conducted at least weekly.

Importantly, this testing, if used, is not a replacement for all other COVID-19 mitigation measures to which we've grown accustomed—vaccinations, mask-wearing, social distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, and engineering controls such as improved ventilation.

If you are considering implementing a workplace COVID-19 testing program, you should first contact your employment counsel to make sure you have all of your legal (i.e., ADA, GINA, HIPAA, and any other law, privacy or otherwise) ducks in a row.

* Image by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash