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As life slowly starts to return to normal with more vaccinations underway, you may be wondering how to safely return to the workplace. While the number of vaccinated people currently outweighs the number of active cases of COVID-19, there’s still a risk of being infected. Internal safety precautions, COVID testing, and bulk vaccinations are three ways you can limit your employee’s risk and return to the workplace.

Before we dive into office best practices related to COVID, let me introduce myself. My name is Rudy Patel, and I am the president of ARCpoint Labs of Virginia Beach. We are a full-service national third-party provider/administrator of accurate, reliable and confidential diagnostic testing for individuals, companies and legal and healthcare professionals. Our testing expertise includes drugs, alcohol, clinical healthcare, corporate wellness programs, DNA employment/background checks, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

ARCpoint Labs is also a new member of Retail Alliance, and I hope to meet the Retail Alliance community in the coming months.

Now, let’s proceed with the topic at hand.

Internal Safety

On April 15, ARCpoint Labs of Virginia Beach hosted a free webinar called “What Every Business Owner Should Know About COVID Testing and Vaccinations.” The webinar featured a medical and legal expert who both tackled tough questions about COVID testing and vaccinations.

One of the biggest questions the audience wanted to know: Can you require employees to be vaccinated?

Our legal expert, Bill Judge, weighed in: “Because of COVID, a lot of the rules that employees typically can’t do are suspended in the words of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). Suspended means the current situation won’t always be in place. Suspended means we have a pandemic to deal with so we’ll let employees do what they otherwise can’t do. For instance, employers can ask certain medical questions, require a mask and enforce getting a vaccine.”

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ARCpoint image

As for employees keeping a safe distance from each other in the workplace, it’s possible that even after moving desks around and reducing capacities for meeting rooms, you’re still pressed for space. If that’s the case, look into using a rotating schedule where only a percentage of employees come in on certain days. While this may not be viable in the long-term, it is a great way to bring employees back over time.

COVID-19 Testing

While some states are rolling out vaccines to all individuals over the age of 16, some staff may not be able to receive the vaccine. For these employees, or before your staff can all get their vaccines, COVID-19 testing is still a viable way to know who is infected and limit their attendance at work.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are a great way to identify individuals who are asymptomatic or displaying COVID-related symptoms. Since the common flu shares a few symptoms with a typical COVID-19 case, testing your staff can limit either virus from spreading around your staff. This means you can have a more productive staff that feels healthy and can worry less about their infection risk at work. COVID-19 tests such as the rapid and standard PCR tests may be required for foreign travel as well. So if your return to work plans include resuming foreign travel, be sure to schedule an appointment for your employees.

Vaccines

What if someone on your staff is vaccinated but comes into contact with an employee who tests positive for COVID? According to the medical expert at our April 15 webinar, Dr.  Chris Cherubino, a two-week quarantine is not necessary any longer for the employee who was exposed.

Dr. Cherubino said: “In the scenario where you have a worker who has been vaccinated and they come into close contact with someone who has COVID, the worker does not need to self-isolate unless the person develops symptoms. This is for a person who is fully vaccinated.”

Ultimately the long-term goal is to have 100% of your staff vaccinated. As states continue to expand the list of eligible people, scheduling a bulk vaccination appointment can help protect against severe COVID-19 cases.

At ARCpoint Labs, we work with the necessary health organizations to make sure we can continue to help our communities. I am always happy to answer questions from Retail Alliance members. Please email me at RPatel@arcpointlabs.com.

~ Rudy Patel, President, ARCpoint Labs of Virginia Beach, VA