Any effective solution allowing employees to return to work requires a coordinated effort between the employers and employees and arming them with clear, concise, and effective guidelines to move forward safely. The following diagram outlines STChealth’s strategy, which is supported through the SAFE employer module.
Baseline assessment is the first step in a safe return-to-work strategy and seeks to establish which employees might have had previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2. This can be accomplished using antibody testing alongside screening questionnaires. Antibody testing can be provided through the voucher system within the employer module as well as monitored by the employer to gain a rough understanding of the underlying risk of their workforce. While research efforts continue to develop and validate a highly accurate antibody test, it is critical to capture the data as part of a holistic strategy so that employers can make informed decisions regarding returning to work. STChealth’s recommended baseline screening measures will be adjusted as additional research is conducted and federal guidelines are adjusted.
Offsite self-screening (i.e. employees identifying and reporting symptoms or potential exposures) is important for preventing potentially ill employees from exposing additional individuals at the workplace. Early identification of exposed individuals can help minimize the risk of further transmission. Thorough guidelines will be provided to the employer for disseminating screening tools and how to interpret results. Through the education and outreach component of the SAFE employer module coupled with state guidelines, the employers can guide their employees through the self-screening process.
Onsite temperature monitoring adds another layer of screening before exposures can occur in the workplace. Already required by some states, this measure can help identify ill individuals who are otherwise asymptomatic. If the employee screens positive, either through self-screening or temperature monitoring, the employer can then provide the employee with a voucher for the COVID-19 test at a specified location (the results of which are shared with public health agencies and the employee). Employee test results provided through the SAFE program will automatically be shared with the designated representative of the employer and guaranteed confidentiality. If tested positive, the employee should self-isolate. In line with the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the employer can ensure adequate transportation for the employee, interview the employee regarding potential contacts in the workplace (who are then notified of their potential exposure), and provide support to the employee during their illness and recovery processes.
The ongoing cycle of monitoring the health and well-being of all employees will also be coupled with the ongoing prevention, surveillance, communication, and education. Each of these components are supplemented through the SAFE employer module through various resources, webinars and guidelines. The framework outlined here is an ongoing process and must be maintained in order to be most effective. It is important to understand that an employee may screen or test negative one day and positive the next.