With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, early containment to minimize the risk of workplace outbreaks is desired. As a result, employers may want to conduct a diagnostic COVID-19 test to identify contagious employees.
Before proceeding, employers should consider the following:
- All COVID-19 tests are not the same. There are two diagnostic test types used to determine if a person has COVID-19: molecular (or PCR) tests and antigen tests. In general, antigen tests are less reliable, leading to a higher chance of false-negative test results. Be aware that a molecular test may be needed if an antigen test shows a negative result and the individual is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
- The CDC recommends a symptom-based strategy to determine when individuals who have symptoms and test positive for COVID-19 can end isolation and return to the workplace.
- Employer-sponsored COVID-19 tests are “medical exams” and must comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with regard to confidentiality and recordkeeping.
Keep in mind that COVID-19 is a medical condition, and diagnostic testing for COVID-19 that is coordinated by the employer must comply with the reporting and quality standards expected of a health care provider.
Employers should work closely with an occupational health provider (or another health care provider), as well as the laboratory performing the tests, to ensure that testing programs meet required standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state department of health services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.