New COVID-19 Testing Guidance Helps Protect Employees, Customers

As CDC lifts masking requirements, a new report provides steps to develop customized COVID-19 testing plans to reduce spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

In light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidance for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people about where and when to wear masks, businesses across the country need guidance about how to protect their employees and customers. A new report by the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, provides three key steps to develop customized COVID-19 testing plans that will help reduce spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and keep workers, customers, and others as healthy and safe as possible.

COVID-19 testing guidanceA routine testing plan can help keep employees from transmitting COVID-19 to each other and to customers. Catching infections early can reduce absenteeism and make workers more comfortable with the COVID mitigation measures in place, keeping businesses open and productive.

“The reality is that business and organizations will have—hopefully, in decreasing numbers—employees, customers, and others who are not vaccinated and could develop COVID and spread the virus to other unvaccinated people in the workplace,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, director of Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. “With a workplace testing strategy, employers can protect their workforce and customers by quickly identifying and tamping down any potential outbreaks.”

“First and foremost, testing should remain in place for workplaces where there is a high level of contact with the public,” said Mara Aspinall, Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions and Advisor to The Rockefeller Foundation. “Even with the CDC’s new guidance, businesses need to establish a workplace plan for testing, so this new report comes at a critical time to help America’s businesses customize COVID-19 testing plans that will assure both their employees and customers that they’re ready for any contingency.”

While there is no ideal one-size-fits-all testing strategy, this guide walks businesses and organizations through three key steps to shape a testing plan best suited to the organization’s needs.

  1. Assessing risk. Businesses should consider several factors to determine what type of testing may be required for their organization, including the likelihood of introducing a case of COVID-19 into the facility, whether a single case can become multiple cases through transmission within the facility, and the consequences of an outbreak for customers and staff.
  2. Choosing the best testing strategy. Depending on the circumstances and level of virus in the community, businesses should determine whether they need: 1) routine testing (testing of all asymptomatic employees 1 to 2 times per week); 2) surge testing (testing all workers, perhaps 1 to 2 times per month, with increased frequency if a positive case of COVIC-19 is detected); 3) “Test-out-of-quarantine,” where essential employees who are exposed to an infected person (with a positive test) do not display COVID-19 symptoms are tested. The report explains the available tests, offers sample testing strategies for the workplace, addresses cost and benefit trade-offs of screening strategies, and shares case studies to inform and guide businesses.
  3. Putting testing strategies into action. The report walks through key implementation steps for testing plans, including determining a contact tracing strategy in advance, communicating the testing plan to employees, and communicating test results in the workplace.
COVID-19 testing guidance
Three steps to developing and implementing your COVID-19 testing plan. (Source: The Rockefeller Foundation)

The report recommends a host of resources and provides links to key Federal and other guidance to help further inform businesses in shaping their testing strategies.

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