Five CDC-Approved Testing Scenarios for Workplaces

  1. Testing individuals with signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19: The CDC says that employers may continue to conduct daily screenings for employees before they enter a facility, including symptom and temperature checks. If a worker reports or shows signs of COVID-19 symptoms, they should be immediately separated from the work environment. 

  2. Testing asymptomatic individuals with recent known or suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2 to control transmission: If a local health department receives a positive test result, it may contact an employer to identify close contacts and other individuals who may be at risk. The CDC encourages employers to work with public health departments in these contact tracing efforts, as well as expand testing in high-density critical infrastructure workplaces, workplaces with at-risk populations (like nursing homes), and workplaces where employees cohabitate (like offshore oil platforms). 

  3. Testing asymptomatic individuals without known or suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2 for early identification in special settings: If community transmission is particularly high in your area, the periodic testing of workers without symptoms may be helpful to identify positive cases and stop spread in the workplace. Higher-risk settings include workplaces where physical distancing is difficult or impossible, remote locations where medical evaluation and treatment may be delayed, workplaces where continuing operations is a high priority, and workplaces where employees cohabitate. 

  4. Testing to determine the resolution of infection (e.g., discontinuation of home isolation): If an employee has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 and has been isolating in response, testing may be used to determine that they can return to work. The CDC notes that while employers are permitted under the ADA to require a healthcare provider’s note to confirm employees are healthy and ready to return to work, coronavirus testing results may be delayed and could slow down this process. It’s recommended that employers consider waiving this requirement for sick employees to validate their sickness, qualify for sick leave, or return to work.

  5. Public health surveillance for SARS-CoV-2: The CDC says that testing is considered surveillance if it’s conducted to identify hotspots or to “better understand disease trends in a workplace.” Testing can be used to assess the COVID-19 burden on a workforce, assess factors that put workers at risk for infection, and evaluate the effectiveness of infection control programs in the workplace. With that in mind, employers should only test “if the results have a reasonable likelihood of benefiting workers.”

Author: Drew Gieseke


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