Remember the early days of COVID-19? Facing a drastic shortage of testing resources, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented strict criteria to qualify for testing. Criteria included physical symptoms of COVID-19, recent travel to areas of an outbreak, and/or direct contact with a person who tested positive. Additional criteria to narrow allocation included those over the age of 65, hospitalized patients, and frontline workers. However, with advancements in technology and COVID-19 testing resources, employers now have more options than ever for getting employees back to work and maintaining a safe workplace. Testing is now being utilized for population health screening in response to the current public health emergency. But what type of testing is appropriate for your employee population? And what questions should you ask when selecting a COVID-19 testing administrator? We have the answers here!
Types of COVID-19 Tests
There are several different types of COVID-19 tests – population health screening/diagnostic tests and antibody tests.
Population health screening/diagnostic tests will determine whether you have an active coronavirus infection and should take steps to isolate yourself from others to prevent spreading the virus. Molecular tests, such as RT-PCR, detect the virus’s genetic material. Antigen tests, detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus.
Molecular Testing Basics:
- Also known as a viral test, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), RT-PCR test, LAMP test
- Collection: Nasal/throat swab or saliva
- Results: Typically available within 24-72 hours
- Advantage: Highly accurate, usually does not need to be repeated
- Disadvantage: Does not reveal past COVID-19 or coronavirus infection in the past
Antigen Testing Basics:
- Also known as a “rapid test”
- Collection: Nasal/throat swab
- Results: Available within 15 minutes
- Advantage: Fast turnaround. Positive results are usually highly accurate, but negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test
- Disadvantage: Maybe more likely to miss an active coronavirus infection compared to molecular tests.
An antibody test looks for antibodies that are made by your immune system in response to a threat, such as a specific virus. Antibodies can help fight infections. They also take several days or weeks to develop after infection and may stay in your blood for several weeks or more after recovery. Antibody testing should not be used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection.
Antibody Testing Basics:
- Also known as a serological or blood test
- Collection: Fingerstick or blood draw
- Results: Available within 15 minutes
- Repeat Testing: A second test may be needed for accurate results
- Disadvantage: Does not diagnose active coronavirus infection at the time of test or show that you do not have COVID-19
Starting a Workplace COVID-19 Screening Program
COVID-19 testing is an important element of your comprehensive approach to reducing transmission of the virus in the workplace.
Before starting a workplace COVID-19 screening program, you will want to consider:
- What type of testing is most appropriate for your employee population?
- Have you defined the purpose of testing/screening employees?
- What is the frequency in which you should test?
- If an employee tests positive, do you have the ability to support contact tracing?
- Who will medically manage a COVID-19 positive employee?
- Do you have an established protocol for returning to the workplace?
Additional questions to consider when selecting COVID-19 testing administrator include:
- What type of testing do they offer?
- Can they perform mobile COVID-19 testing onsite?
- Do they offer home swab-and-send self-collection tests?
- How invasive is the testing procedure?
- Can the provider administer “rapid tests”?
- What is the average turnaround time for results?
- Will you be provided with actionable alerts for positive results?
- Do you have access to aggregated data?
- Will the provider assist with contact tracing for positive results?
- Can the provider offer medical case management for the employee throughout their recovery?
- How will the provider facilitate the return to work process, upon recovery?
Work-Ready Solutions with Axiom Medical
Axiom Medical is working closely with businesses across all industries to navigate this pandemic. As a result, whether needing a solution for daily health attestations via our CheckIn2Work or CheckIn2School apps, COVID-19 testing programs, or case management which closely monitors your employee population throughout their recovery journey with successful reentry to the workplace, we stand ready to help!