Guest Commentator: Peter Hotz, President & CEO, vybe urgent care @vybecare

What role does testing play in the reopening of businesses in our community?

Recommendations from public health officials will soon allow the Philadelphia metro area to emerge from the most stringent stage of the stay-at-home restrictions.  Given the amount that we still don’t know about Covid-19 and the often-conflicting information about testing, it’s natural for all of us in the business community to be anxious and confused about how to “do the right thing” for our employees and our businesses.  Employees are looking for customized approaches that ensure the work environment is safe, while customers are looking for reassurance that it’s now safe to return to your business.

Screening and testing are part of a bigger playbook for safely returning to work, which also includes strategies and policies covering the physical environment, access to healthcare (including behavioral health), PTO and work from home, and communications.  Employers should be acting now to fully understand and implement screening and testing programs for their employees.  Safety protocols like testing go a long way toward reassuring employees that you are looking out for their well-being.

For screening, as with any employee policy, the key is to apply it consistently.  Current best practices include temperature checks and self-assessment surveys before each shift to identify candidates for testing and as a method of contact tracing to identify potential exposures.

The current testing for Covid-19 can answer one of two questions:  Do I currently have it? or Did I previously have it?

The most common way to measure if someone is currently infected is a PCR, or nasal swab test.  Once limited to healthcare workers and the at-risk population, public health officials are now recommending broader testing to fully assess and moderate the spread of the disease.  PCR tests are readily available at urgent care centers and many pharmacies and retail health clinics as well as the larger testing sites operated by area health systems.

PCR testing is a priority for those employees with known exposure or who are symptomatic.  Other factors to consider for priority testing would be public-facing jobs, positions that require travel and individuals with underlying health conditions.

The question of earlier exposure is answered through an antibody test, which today is most commonly conducted through a basic blood draw.  While the presence of antibodies has not yet been found to absolutely confer immunity to future infection, this testing is considered an effective tool for understanding risk on a population level, including a workforce.  In addition, those who test positive may consider donating their plasma for treatment.

Results for both tests are typically available in 2-4 days from the leading commercial labs although rapid testing platforms will likely be available in the very near future.  Employers should consult with a trusted medical professional and prepare thoughtful communications materials for their teams in advance of rolling out testing programs.

We’ve all gone through tremendous changes during the past few months, and nothing will look the same when we return to work. Whatever our new “normal” becomes, employers who implement increased workplace cleanliness and safety guidelines, including testing, will inspire employee trust and confidence.

vybe urgent care is a member of the Chamber’s Health Care Action Team (HCAT), a unique, cross-functional group of 135+ leaders working to leverage the region’s health care and technology assets and is transforming our 11-county community into the global leader in health care innovation.

Upcoming Event

PHL R&D: The Search for a COVID-19 Vaccine, Treatments, and Diagnostic Tools
Friday, June 12, 2020 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. | Held via Zoom

Hear directly from the researchers and academic health care leaders who are working together to identify a potential vaccine and other tools to effectively diagnose, treat, and prevent a disease that the world is still learning about.