Employee Monitoring for COVID-19 is Multi-faceted

Published by Michael O'Regan - Tuesday June 16th, 2020


Infectious disease experts have expressed cautious optimism concerning efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but they also admit that there are no guarantees regarding either the timeframe for availability or how well the vaccine will protect against re-infection. Meanwhile, the incidence of new outbreaks has led government agencies, such as the US CDC, to continue to recommend that workplaces should consider developing and implementing a comprehensive employee screening and monitoring strategy.

In this context, it is unfortunate that employers are being advised to limit their coronavirus monitoring to temperature checks. These are easy and widely available, but they are not sufficient. The WHO has clearly stated that thermal scanners cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a high temperature. In a published case series of 5,700 patients with COVID-19 admitted to 12 hospitals in New York City over one month during the pandemic, less than one third of them had fever at triage. Furthermore, according to some medical experts, the thermometer guns that are being pushed so hard by vendors tend to be unreliable outside carefully controlled health care settings.

Monitoring programs must also consider evolutions in testing for the COVID virus itself and for neutralizing antibodies. Thus far, the most commonly used and reliable test for diagnosis of COVID-19 has been the RT-PCR test performed using nasopharyngeal swabs or other upper respiratory tract specimens, including throat swab or, more recently, saliva. Rapid point-of-care tests for detection of antibodies have been widely developed and marketed and are of variable quality. Many manufacturers do not reveal the nature of antigens used. These tests are purely qualitative in nature and can only indicate the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The complexity of testing is reflected in the ever-increasing number of kits which are receiving emergency use authorization from the FDA.

The obvious conclusions are that any one datapoint at any one timepoint is irrelevant and that monitoring of infection with the new coronavirus is a multi-faceted task. REGEN MED can provide the optimal solution: repeated monitoring longitudinally over time for COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, breathing difficulties, etc.), integrated with validated testing for the virus itself and for neutralizing antibodies, where and when this is available and approved by local and national health departments.

Contact the author (moregan@rgnmed.com) for further information and to discuss a proposal to meet your employee monitoring requirements.