We were recently invited by the Arizona Trucking Association to deliver a webinar. Gina and Jay outlined the processes and procedures employers should follow to integrate COVID-19 testing into their existing physical safety program.
The ATA has kindly allowed us to publish the webinar here, in its entirety. A written transcript can be found below the video.
Tony: Welcome, everybody. I wanted to say thank you for attending ATA’s first webinar. There may be some technical issues as we go through and note that, that is all on me, Tony Bradley. Gina and Jay are willing victims of our first webinar. Thank you for being our test experiment. Today, we’ve got a presentation from Gina Kesler and Jay Hughes. Gina Kesler is the President and CEO of Impact Employee Solutions, headquartered here in Phoenix. She has over 25 years of experience in professional sales, management and sales training, in human resources, compliance and human capital arena.
Gina has really become ATA’s go-to person when it comes to knowledge. Let me rephrase that. We first met Gina when we were talking about the marijuana initiative two years ago. She came in and did a presentation to our members about the problems with that initiative. She’s really been a great resource ever since then on anything and everything related to drug screening. Today we’re going to have her talking about testing for COVID-19 in the workplace.
Jay Hughes, who’s joining her has been with Impact Employee Solutions since 2016. Throughout his career he’s had a history of driving strong organic growth and building exceptional teams, and sophisticated technology to solve the industry’s toughest challenges. COVID-19, I’m guessing, Jay, might be up there as one of the toughest challenges we’ve faced. With that, I will hand over the presentation to Gina and Jay. Just so everybody knows, you are muted. Down at the bottom if you want to ask a question you can raise your hand. I also believe you can ask a question in the Q&A box. Again, bear with us as we use this technology for the first time for our webinar. With that, Gina and Jay.
Gina: Thank you so much. Tony, just really quickly see you know, if anybody raises their hand or does ask a question in the chat box because we’re in presentation mode, we’re not able to see that chat box. Just feel free to interrupt us if you see that. We can pause and take a question along the way, if you don’t mind.
Tony: Will do.
Gina: All right, guys. Thank you so much for joining us today. I will tell you that we have been dedicating 24/7 of our lives to this issue for probably the past two weeks because it has hit us fast and furious in terms of the types of clinical testing that we provide to our employer clients across the country. Mainly because, and I’m sure you guys are well aware and have seen all kinds of things on the news, it has created mass hysteria, lots of confusion. Of course, and Jay’s going to talk real specifically about the testing types because he’s super good at that but we have seen daily changes to the information on this if not multiple times a day up to the point where we were just changing slides, some data on the slides today that was different yesterday.
This is a very fluid and ambiguous phase that we’ve entered in our lives when it comes to this particular pandemic that we’re in. Our information, we will not guarantee is 100% because it might look slightly different tomorrow depending on if the CDC rolls out with something different and what have you. If there’s a time to be flexible, everybody, it’s going to be around this because again, we just don’t have a lot of anecdotal information. We don’t have history on this, so we’re kind of having to go with the flow.
With that, today’s topics just really quickly, I’m going to cover the kind of the front end and the back end of this presentation and Jay’s going to tackle the middle. We’re going to talk a little bit about what this new safety program probably needs to kind of look like for you guys given the different recommendations that you’re seeing federally, and state wise and locally and all of that stuff. For those of you that are strictly Arizona-based, we’ll be able to tackle a few of the items that we know about Arizona and their recommendations. If you have employees outside or you have satellite offices or headquarters in other states, it’s going to be really important that you keep an eye on what those states are saying too.
We’ll talk a little bit about SARS, the CoV-2 specifically, the test types, what they mean, quarantine days and things like that. Then we’ll kind of wrap it up with some workplace considerations.
I will say like, again, this is really since April 27 when we had our labs reach out to us and roll out the kinds of testing that we’re talking about specifically with our clients on a daily basis. It’s really new. We’re looking at literally 30 days ago. This whole new type of testing and what does it mean and how can our employers use it to their advantage and for safety reasons? Then also kind of what we’re seeing with this pandemic as it relates to other issues employers are facing. Ask questions along the way, please. Like I mentioned, we just can’t see you. Tony can interrupt us at any point.
Really quickly, you would have seen a little bit of the email that we sent out through Tony when he invited you on. It’s really important from our perspective as we’ve talked to our employer clients, from a business owner, from a strategic leadership perspective, what this really means and the changes that our employers are starting to look at making? I think the number one thing that I have to impress upon everybody we talked to, is that for the first time in our lifetime, we have had employees sitting at home for a couple of months with access to the mass media that has quite literally scared them enough to think, “Unless I stay home I’m not safe. If I go out or I go back to work I could get sick with something that could kill me.” That is a really psychological game changer, if you will, on a national scale. It’s very different than what happened at 911, which was very pointed to New York, New Jersey or hurricanes and floods and things that happen state by state and it kind of hits that locale for a while until that devastation is cleared, and people start to come out about both psychologically and emotionally.
In this instance, we’ve just never seen a national pandemic to the degree that has scared the wits out of just about everybody into thinking that they really could lose life if they leave the house. For us employers, and believe me when I tell you, we’re involved with this, we have our own employees and we have communications all the time with them. It’s a very different conversation when suddenly you have to find out, “How do I bring my employees back,” or if they are back and continue to work, “How do I ensure to them that I am doing everything possible with my business to make sure they are physically safe?” That’s a hard one because we’ve never done this before.
It is our belief and we’ve had validation from many of our business owners and leaders that we’ve talked through with this about, is that in order to achieve any kind of return to work and productivity and morale and all that, we have to get past this notion that I need to feel physically safe at work in order for me to start to feel psychologically safe. With previous pandemics we really only experienced the psychological piece of it, which was huge. Now we’ve got another layer.
As you’ve seen or heard or maybe done your own research around the different types of recommendations you may deploy within your organizations, it really is all about that physical safety piece so that employees think, “I can go back to work. My employer’s got my back. They’re doing things that they need to do so that I don’t get sick. Anybody else entering the building or coming on to work is put through the same rigor, I suppose, to ensure safety is equal among everybody.” That’s really the goal.
The other thing I want to touch base on too, and this has come directly from our clients as well as we’ve talked through this is the notion of, we’ve got employees that we need to take care of. What about our customers? What about our clients and our vendors and anybody that might walk through our door? We’ve got a brand that we need to protect. We’ve got a message that needs to get out the door that’s in a positive way. To the extent that we do put these efforts and measures in place that sends that message outwardly that we are doing everything we can to make sure everybody we come into contact with is safe is going to be just as equally as important, I believe, as than just employees alone.
Just to wrap up the physical safety piece, and there’s lots of information out there. I’m sure many of you have looked through it. Physical safety meaning, how do you create barriers for employees? Distancing of desks and equipment. Maybe making PPE. You’ve heard all these jargons and all these words probably for the past few months enough that you could do without them from now on. Masks, gloves, sanitisation that has changed of your locations, even talking about temperature checks and things like that. That all lends itself to that physical safety side that you are likely thinking about or starting to execute currently.
Many of you might already know this, but it’s something that we feel important to bring up is when we are talking about sheltering at home, and we know mass media has been talking a lot about this from a real negative standpoint and the newspapers and everything else. As they’re returning back, it’s your job as the employer by law to ensure that you are providing the safest work environment possible. While this particular pandemic is unique, we don’t know how long this will last. We don’t have laws written around it. I’m sure that there are some somebody’s throwing up on the books, but we all fall under a general duty clause. Specifically right now this applies, so we need to make sure that we’re doing all we can to ensure that we’re doing what OSHA would expect of us under this.
There’s also a second leg to this I want to share, and that’s what comes from the Equal Opportunity Agency who governs the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act because this is critical for employers. Never before as employers have we been asked to do certain things within our business as part of a safety criteria that wouldn’t normally get us sued because it would. What I’m talking about specifically is probably notwithstanding a hospital setting or an EMT or some sort of first responder, the normal general industry business owner would never or should never be taking people’s temperatures or asking them three or four questions around their general health before they enter the building. That would absolutely get you in trouble.
For this timeframe and we don’t know how long this is, so we say this with caution, the EOC has shared that there is a temporary lift of some of the restrictions that are generally protected under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act that we would normally as employers not be able to do in order to ensure the safety of our businesses and who enters those workplaces. While you can’t just go rogue and ask whatever questions that you want in terms of somebody’s health, you have to be very careful in terms of how you discriminate. I say that with a positive and a negative light because we have some individuals within our staff that are more vulnerable than others and that might be around an age difference relative to COVID.
ADA is not lifted entirely. You really want to stay away from any additional underlying questions that could point to a medical issue because that’s what ADA protects a consumer or employee around. To the extent of this particular virus, there are things that, as you know, you’re being asked to ask and to monitor for the general safety of everybody. Keep that in mind as you move along. We’re happy to talk to anybody one-off as well because we get these questions a lot. We’re by no means attorneys, by the way, but there’s a lot of common sense out there that we can share in terms of the types of things that are fine as you roll this out and the questions you really need to stay away from. With that, I’m actually going to turn this over to Jay. He’s going to share with you specifically what this SARS-CoV-2 means and the test types. Again, if there’s questions or anything like that, please, Tony, interrupt us and we’ll pause.
Jay: Thanks, everybody, for joining here today. The testing and the virus itself becomes, as Gina mentioned, a critical part of ensuring physical safety. We are going to speak to the different kinds of tests and what the results mean. I think it’s important as you hear different types of terms thrown around that you understand some of the clinical aspects behind the virus itself and specifically what we’re testing for.
If you take a look at what’s on the screen right now, the purple bell curve, if you will, is the life of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If you follow that along, typically what happens is that you are infected. For the first five days, approximately, you may be asymptomatic. That’s the most concerning time for folks I think a little bit from a public health standpoint in that you are infected and you are asymptomatic, so you don’t feel like you’re sick.
About day five starts the onset of symptoms. You can see that through about day 14 is really the peak of just feeling poorly, period, of being sick. Then it starts to go down. By about day 28 or so post-exposure, you’re hopefully healed and showing no signs. What becomes important in all this is your body’s response to that. That’s what the green and the red lines are going to illustrate here.
Not to get too sciency, but it’s important that the body produces as part of the normal immune response, antibodies that will fight off the virus. This isn’t specific to the coronavirus. This is all viruses. When you’re a kid in and you get chickenpox, your body will produce antibodies that will fight the virus and then also produce a long term immunity to that virus. With the Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 specifically, about day seven, and there are different types of antibodies, but about day seven, your body starts to produce an antibody which is called an IgM, the IgM as in Mary, the green line. I stole this from a clinician. That is what we’ll call the firefighter. The IgM antibody is the one that is designed to, long term or short term, aggressively defend your body against this virus. It rapidly produces, you can see that the peak of that will coincide with the peak of your symptoms and then starts to dissipate. About 21 days after the initial infection the IgM antibody disappears.
Beginning sometime between day 10, and on this graph it’s represented day 14, that’s typically the latest, your body also then starts to produce another antibody called an IgG. The IgG and again, this is a term that I stole, is more of the fire marshal in that your body produces this to work along with the IgM but essentially, it’s in place to ensure a long term immunity. Going back to the fire marshal term, that things are proper going forward. The IgMs job is to violently defend your body and the IgG provides that long term immunity. I know that’s a lot of initials and a little bit clinical, but I think it’s a good idea. This will make more sense when we think about what we are testing for later.
I’m going to ask you to also pay attention to right in between, let’s say day, it’s about 18 and day 28, there’s a bit of a crossover period there. That’ll become important for interpreting results of the antibody test. What I mean by that, again, we’ll get into this detail in a second, but if you are positive for the antibody then it’s probably going to lend itself that you’re going to want to be tested for the virus itself to make sure that you aren’t in that day, let’s say 18 to 28 period, where you’re still able to infect folks. Hopefully, this makes some sense, and again it’ll give us the baseline for what exactly the different tests are testing for, and what it means for the results.
We’ll jump into the different test types. You’ll hear and have seen what those really painful looking tests with the swabs and your nose test. Those are a viral test. The viral test is testing for current infection. Again, if you think back to our previous slide, it’s looking for the purple or blue, I’m not sure what color it is, purple or blue, the presence of that Coronavirus in your system. It is going to be live. It’s going to tell you, it’s a term that the medical community will use, that you have a live infection and that you are shedding the virus, which means you are contagious. That is specifically what it’s looking for. It is a PCT type test, which again, is a long medical term, but it’s different than the antibody, but it is looking for an antigen and it is a viral test.
We put in here, and this is what Gina was saying, sometimes things change a little bit but traditionally it had to be ordered by the physician. In Arizona, specifically, they relaxed that a little bit in that the Arizona State Health Director, Dr. Chris, said that, “Where previously you had to have a doctor’s order now you don’t necessarily.” I’m going to talk in a bit as far as why this isn’t for everybody to go get, but they have relaxed that a little bit. It’s important that part of the reason that you would go and get this is that you exhibit symptoms or you have had an exposure to someone who has actively tested positive for COVID-19. Within six feet, and/or the CDC will talk about if someone has coughed or sneezed and the droplets have touch you in that instance, it may make some sense.
There is also a push for some vulnerable population who don’t show either of these to get tested. My mom is 86 and went to a testing event just due to her age to get this test. It is nasal, they have now a test that’s a little bit less invasive that is an oral swab. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s a PCR test and it’s looking for the antigen or the active virus. If you have a positive result of this type of test, there is a very high likelihood it’s, I believe 99.6% chance that there is an active virus. Hopefully, we’re clear on that type of test. It isn’t the type of test that we’re going to speak, and that Impact Employee Solutions helps our clients get to, which is the antibody test but I did want to address this type of test.
I also wanted to address, Tony, I know you had a question and we hear from our clients every day about quarantine. With this type of test, specifically in Arizona, if you have this type of test done, you must sign a voluntary isolation agreement that you won’t go anywhere until the results come back. If they’re negative, that’s fine. If they’re positive you have to then follow, both Arizona and the CDC follow the same protocol, but if it’s positive you cannot travel anywhere until there’s no fever for 72 hours without medicine, other symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath have improved. Even if the symptoms are gone, the person who got the positive test still needs to quarantine for 17 days, or, I’m sorry, 7 days since the specimen was collected. This type of test has a very strict protocol for isolating yourself from it. Tony, I think I saw somebody raised their hand during this.
Tony: We’ve got one question related to the previous conversation, which was the list of questions you can ask I believe in regards to health during the times of COVID. I was waiting to ask that question.
Jay: Yes. They are COVID-related and symptom-related. Well, first off you’re allowed to take temperature, which isn’t really an ask unless you– It might be your protocol or policy to have folks administer that to themselves at home. If it’s at home, you’re allowed to ask, what’s the temperature? The CDC sets it at 100.4. Then you are allowed to ask symptom-related questions. Are they experiencing any shortness of breath? Are they experiencing any coughing? Have they had any respiratory issues? You are allowed to ask if they have been in contact with anyone who has a positive COVID-19 test within the last 14 days.
The CDC has a list of questions that you are authorized to ask. The one area, Tony, that we do see some of our clients question about which you are specifically not allowed to ask, it is in regards to what are some well recognize comorbid conditions. You are not allowed to ask if somebody is diabetic, you are not allowed to ask if somebody has high blood pressure. Some of the specific comorbid conditions that cause problems, you are not allowed to ask those, but you are allowed to ask physical health questions with regards to potential signs and symptoms. Does that make sense?
Tony: It does. Would it be fair to direct people to your guys’ website for those lists of questions and what they can and cannot ask?
Gina: We did not put it on our website for fear of liability coming back to us but we do have this and I’m happy to send them.
Gina: I can send them to you and you can forward them.
Tony: All right. We’ve got another question. If you opt to have an entire group tested to be proactive, the three-day quarantine does not apply, if one is positive and working, they must go into quarantine.
Jay: That is correct, but the ruling is, and this gets a little bit easier if you opt to have an entire group go and get the antigen test, the health director for Arizona– The voluntary isolation is to not go anywhere until the results come back. When these tests first came out, as most of the folks on here probably know, there was a multi-day delay for the test to come back. They are improving these PCR tests everyday. With some of these drive-through events, I believe it’s added as a test now that has a five-minute result. You are really only quarantined, I’ll say for five minutes until you’ve got the results. The question is accurate that says, if you get the result back of this test and it’s negative, the guidance is you’re quarantined until you get the result. Then the question was accurate that says, if you get the result after five minutes, if 9 out of 10 are negative, no quarantine. The person who’s positive then follows the protocol that we laid out earlier with regard to reduction and fever and symptoms, which are available on CDC, or again, we can send them out.
Our program, Debra wanted to speak to, and there is a lot of confusion about here also, is regard to antibody testing. As we saw before, those were the two lines, the firefighter and the fire marshal antibodies are really testing for past infections. As I mentioned before, the antibodies are really proteins that fight off infections, they are disease-specific, IgM and IgG. As we look at a physical safety program and designing back to work with how we use this data, we believe it’s a critical data point to test all of the staff so that we can have an idea whether someone has had a past exposure or not.
The antibody test itself is a serology test, which means it is blood-based. We’re going to get into some of the accuracy questions but the one that we do is a lab-based. There are others that are not and have more of an instant rate on that. I’ll give you my opinion on that shortly, but we use a lab-based blood test. A positive result of an antibody test means that you have the presence of the antibodies, either IgG or IgM from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
A positive result tells you that your body has produced these antibodies. We’re not 100% sure where you might be in this bell curve. That’s why we’re going to talk about what really the best steps might be, but it means that your body has either started to produce this green or red bell curve in response to a previous infection with the coronavirus. Our recommendation and the clinical recommendation would be, if you are positive for the antibody you should then follow up with a antigen or virus test to make sure that you are not still contagious.
I know that gets a little confusing, but if we’re looking at the chart here what we’re trying to make sure is that we’re not in that crossover period, let’s say day 14 to day 28, where the antibody has showed up, but I’m still contagious. We also know that there are many people out there who are asymptomatic, there are no real symptoms. Our recommendation is, if you get a positive antibiotic test that you just confirm with an antigen or virus test that you are not still contagious.
When we look at the tests that we do, and I’ll share with you in a minute why we chose this specific one, but the testing that we provide our clients, and there’s multiple types out there, but the one that we provide is a single blood draw. It’s done by a certified phlebotomist. If you’ve had your blood drawn and you think of those tubes, it is one tube that is drawn and that the collections are available that we can do it, we can schedule a collection event where we’d come to the worksite. We also can schedule that through a PSC as a patient service center. We can schedule that a blood draw is done at a brick and mortar location.
You’ll have final results in 48 hours, no more than 48 hours. Sometimes it’s a little bit faster. Again, there’s a reason we’re going to do a lab test. I’ll talk about that specifically, but the workplace COVID test aligns really well if you think about it with the workplace drug test. That’s why we are in this. Our bread and butter business for years in our interaction with Tony and many of you on the phone have been around workplace drug testing for the DOT, FMCSA requirements. In this instance, it is a workplace test, just a different mode of collection and so it falls right in line with that. We have deep expertise in this area so scheduling it really becomes no problem for us to do.
One of the questions that comes up oftentimes and has come up with folks that are on the phone here today I’m sure but also with our clients is, are the antibody tests accurate? In fact, much of the news that you might hear, questions somewhat the accuracy of these results. Again, I’m going to get a little bit scientific for a second. With good intent to speed up testing there was approximately 250 tests that were brought to market late in March, early April that the FDA had very little control in place as far as the accuracy or efficacy of those tests. Again, the intent was simply to get testing out.
With some of the results they found that there was a high level of false positive or false negatives. I’ll talk for a second about how that gets generated, of those 250 tests. The FDA pulled that back a little bit, although the tests are still available and out there, and that they’ve gone through the process now for what’s called an Emergency Use Authorization or an EUA. There are minimum quality standards now that the FDA has put in place for an EUA authorization, and of that authorization there are 12 manufacturers now who have done that.
There is, and if you see at the blue at the bottom of your page, if you’re curious, I can take you to a link and I’ll show the accuracy results of those different tests. The accuracy is measured by two measures. One is sensitivity, and one is specificity. I’ll talk in a second what those measure, but the test that we specifically use is one that was produced by Abbott. It has a sensitivity of 100% which is as good as you can get and a specificity of 98% or 99.8%. Again, this was measured on 10,000 samples. It’s a very, very high level.
If you go to the links that I provide at the bottom, there were other tests where there are sensitivity and specificity rates that are in the 70% range which the harm that it does is that again, false positives or false negatives, and really it’s all about having good data.
Sensitivity itself is really a measure of the ability for the tests to detect antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself. As I mentioned, anytime you have a viral infection your body produces antibodies. What we want to do is make sure that if we’re finding an antibody that is specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. My last point says that it’s not the chickenpox. We’ve all, or most of us have had the chickenpox. It is a viral infection, your body produces antibodies and it produces the antibody that gives you long term immunity. It’s the same process for this virus, so we want to be specific that we’re not just measuring antibodies, but antibodies specific to the CoV-2 test. Again, that’s the sensitivity measure.
The specificity is talking about the testability to return, and this sounds like an odd way to measure it, but what they measure in specificity is that it returns a negative result when people really haven’t been infected with the virus. Again, they looked at 10,000 samples of blood, and if you remember, the specificity was 99.8%. If you get a positive back, we are confident that you have the antibody as a result of the coronavirus, and the test that we use with the high sensitivity and specificity is going to ensure that it’s accurate.
Gina looks at me and our clients look at me and say, “Well, how about using some English?” We know that our test that we use has a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 99.8%. What that means is, if you’re positive you can be confident that you have been exposed, which is a specificity measure, and that it was COVID-19, which is the sensitivity measure.
Again, when you hear about antibody tests perhaps not being all that accurate, it was with good intent, there was a bunch that was rushed to market. We personally have chosen a lab-based blood test instead of an instant test so that we can reach these levels of specificity and sensitivity because it is our opinion, just like a drug test, just like any other testing that we do for our clients that you want to be accurate, and so that is a route that we’ve taken. If you get this testing done even if it’s not through us, I would suggest that you really make sure of these two measures so that when you get the results, and you’re planning this physical safety, that your employees can be confident of the results that you get back. That’s a lot of science, but I did want to address I think, what specifically we’re testing for, what the accuracy rates are, and the confidence you can have in the results that you get back.
Gina: We’ll give a 10-second pause if there’s questions or comments or anything that somebody wants to jump in with. Crystal clear is what I’m assuming.
Jay: We got a big test at the end of this presentation.
Gina: Tony, do you see any frowny emojis that are coming through? Okay. At the end of the day, we impress upon you guys that if you’re going to look at testing, be really clear about what you’re looking at. Obviously, these things aren’t free necessarily, so make sure that the type of test you’re looking at, you want to get as high number as you possibly can around that sensitivity and specificity.
Otherwise, you could result back with something that isn’t accurate, and you may not know it. The last thing anybody ever wants, truly, is to have somebody that potentially is asymptomatic that can walk in and literally infect a whole department. To the extent that we don’t want to scare you, but that’s the reality that we’re living in right now. That’s the fear. We just want to make sure that if you’re going to practice any kind of testing, which we think is a good idea, I think it’s a responsible way to look at it that you’re getting as accurate as possible, and truly lab-based is usually where you’re going to fall with that.
In terms of the workplace considerations, we’ve talked about this. A couple things you guys might be aware of, but I think it’s really critical as employers that we know what we’re about to get hit with. We’re seeing as of today, 40 million first-timer unemployment claims. These are people that had a job three months ago. They’ve never filed for unemployment before in their life. That’s how many were up, 40 million first-time unemployment claims, which means there’s going to be a lot of people out there looking for jobs. As your businesses take off and start to repair and start to pick up in volume or however it is you measure your business, you get busier, and you may be bringing people back or hiring, you’ve got a lot to be thinking about that has resulted from these lockdowns. It’s not just virus-based, it’s the lockdown.
I will tell you that we talk every single day with my National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association. We have town halls that we put on multiple times a week for employers and for people in our business to get on and just share what’s happening in their state and what’s going on. I think the biggest thing that we’re hearing is the fear based around the incredible increase of substance abuse during the last couple of months, and it’s indicative based on the alcohol sales being up just in the last week of March, 55%, and we’re seeing marijuana sales jumped up 130% for some of these online stores just in quarter one, and so coping skills may not be the most healthy if you’re cooped up inside, thinking that you’re going to get sick and you’re in lockdown, and you’re working from home.
We experienced an interesting survey by a website called alcohol.com or alcohol.org. They surveyed workers across the country that were working from home specifically to know if they’ve been drinking while they’re on the clock. They put it out there based on the percentage of workers from home that are drinking more on the clock based on the state and Arizona came in at 39% of employees working from home were also drinking while they were working on the clock. We had DERs tell us on these COVID calls that we’ve been having that they had Zoom meetings with their staff and they clearly saw a big giant bong that was lit and smoking behind the gentleman and so that lends the question of, “Oh my gosh, can I test somebody for reasonable suspicion if they’re working from home?”
We’re dealing with a lot of these questions, and so while we– This was a very specific COVID test-based Education Forum, be prepared and be thinking about all of these other things that the pandemic is impacting the normal daily lives of individuals from the work at home thing. We do know just from history, the 9/11, we saw a 30% increase in substance abuse right after 9/11 happened. It was 30 days or 60 days…
Jay: Six months.
Gina: Six months later, thank you. Six months later, we only saw that number dropped to 27%. It dropped 3%, so we did see an increase in substance abuse. That was one isolated event across a couple of states, so we’re only guessing proportionately what that means across the country, as people sat at home and maybe sat in fear and looked for ways to cope with it, so be thoughtful about your drug and alcohol testing programs as well.
Review all your policies, keep in mind that as you enter into this new phase of a physical safety program if you start testing, you have to write it down, get it in a policy, go over the policies with your staff and make sure they sign that they received and acknowledged receipt of that policy. Do we anticipate there’s going to be some bloodthirsty attorneys on the other end of this? Yes. Not only does IES do drug testing, we also are a consumer recruiting agency, which means we do background checks.
I will tell you that every court shut down during this pandemic, which meant some of our clients had to go ahead and hire people without knowing if there was any crime activity whatsoever because the courts were shut down. We are absolutely preparing our employers, as the courts open back up and they go and they maybe send another background check to see if there’s anything there, that they might be terminating employees based on what could come back if it’s not good for the job and good for the company. Same kind of things can happen during this time with drug testing, and this COVID testing. Even though some restrictions are lifted, be sure you get this in writing and you’re getting acknowledgment that they understand it, because we just feel that there’s going to be some legal activity on the back end of this and even some employees that take advantage of it. Reevaluate your drug and alcohol testing program, reevaluate your pre-employment screening program. Even if your employees have been home for a couple of months and they’ve maintained employees I would really heavily consider testing them before they return back to work as well. The safety program, if you’re rolling out something similar to what we’ve been talking about should be in writing.
I also want to impress upon the supervisor training. Most of you that are under the FMCSA and Part 40 for federal drug testing know that an employer is required to ensure supervisors who are DOT trained, DOT drivers and the like have to go through one hour of signs and symptoms of alcohol use and abuse and one hour of signs and symptoms of drug abuse related to the workplace and what to do about it under a reasonable suspicion or reasonable cost scenario.
Well, now I’m telling you, you might need to expand that signs and symptoms view for your staff and for your supervisors to potentially include the signs and symptoms around COVID, because it’s your supervisors that are the eyes and ears for those of you the are the owners and executive leadership on call that ultimately are in the field and helping you identify safety risks around your employees and so this may need to be a little bit inclusive and be discussed so that there’s awareness and you guys can pull people aside and have a basic conversation to ensure the safety of everybody.
Then obviously, it’s good practice to follow the CDC guidelines as they’re hosted, but keep an eye on them because we have seen changes and variations as we’ve moved along this continuum in the last 60 to 90 days. I think we’re going to expect to continue to see changes going into fall as I think the big question mark is, does fall bringing us another round similar to what we experienced with the flu or not?
I think that’s where some of this initial antibody testing to know your population of who’s exposed and who’s not could give you strategic information around how you staff your workplace, who they’re around and who they interface with, and specifically, what does that look like going into fall should this resurface relative to those exposed that may have the immunity passport so to speak?
I’m not saying that with certainty because you can’t but that’s in theory what we would expect versus those that have never been exposed and who do they potentially interact with or such. It does give you more data to know and to go on than not. I think in this situation since it’s very new Russian roulette, it’s probably not a good idea with your employees in the house. With that, here’s our contact information and we’re happy to answer any questions whether it’s now or later, but go ahead and mark that down.
Tony: Gina, we’ve got two questions.
Tony: The first question is, what if a family member of a coworker test positive for COVID, when can that coworker return to work?
Jay: The CDC guidelines would be that if you were around a person who has been positive for COVID-19, you should stay at home for 14 days after exposure based on the time that it takes for the illness to develop. The CDC guidelines says 14 days after exposure.
Gina: We would also recommend that point since if you know that person’s exposed due to them having a test, part of that quarantine should probably consider that you go get yourself tested as well because you’ll just have more information and peace of mind and you’ll know better what to do, and then around your quarantine and obviously also to let the employer know where you’re at because there’s some planning around that too.
Jay: Yes. By the way, we didn’t bring that up earlier as some of the questions you can ask, but when you’re considering writing your policy, it is acceptable to make it mandatory for employees to report either this type of exposure that you just mentioned or a positive test result to the employer. That is acceptable.
Gina: It won’t ever be acceptable again, but you have the opportunity now.
Tony: Just a reminder, if you have a question, please type it into the Q&A box. The next question is, please repeat the comment about when to get retested and which test if you have a positive C-19 test.
Jay: Yes. I’m going to bring up a slide and then I’ll make sure that we’re talking about the same test. Our comment on being retested specifically was in response to a positive antibody test. A positive antibody test means, again, that you are producing both the IgG or IgM antibodies. What our recommendation is, that if you have a positive antibody test that you then get a test for the antigen or the virus itself to make sure that you’re no longer contagious.
There is also guidelines where the CDC has put out for someone who is positive for the virus itself about getting retested. It’s sometimes, and again, it’s on the CDC website or we can send them out, but if you were positive for the virus itself, depending on your healthcare provider’s advice and availability testing, you can have two negative test results in a row. If those tests are 24 hours apart, again, it shows that you’re no longer contagious. I hope that didn’t confuse, but there’s two types of retests. For the antibody, we’re simply suggesting that if that’s positive that you go and get the actual virus test done so that you can make sure that you’re no longer contagious and pass it on.
Tony: Great. Thank you. Why don’t you go and put it on your finishing slide again. We’ll just give everybody one last opportunity to ask a question. If you’ve got a question please type it in the Q&A at the bottom or in the chat box and we will see if we can answer.
Gina: Just to put some context around this in terms of some of the things we’ve heard from our employers, and we actually are heading out for a 20-person antibody event next week for a busing company. Their main concern was, “Okay, so, if I’m going to get 57 people on my bus shoulder to shoulder or maybe it’s cut in half because you’re not going to be sitting so close together for a while, I got to make sure that those passengers know that when they get on the bus, the bus driver is clear and safe and not sit and vice versa, that they’re comfortable getting on the bus so that otherwise I don’t make any revenue if I don’t start driving my bus.”
That was a good example for me, from a learning perspective, hearing from our employers around the fact that they’re very worried about their employees. They want to make sure that they have ‘a certified clean bill of health on this space.’ It’s also to communicate that externally, because they know they’re going to have these individuals get on buses and whether it’s kids or they’re taking them up to Grand Canyon or what have you because they do these all over the place and go state to state.
For them, it was equally around employee safety as well as the external-facing of their clients to make sure that they get these contracts back up so that they’re back on the road. They haven’t been driving a bus for two months. That’s hard on the pocketbook. It just gives you a little context of what we’re hearing in terms of our feedback.
Tony: Great. Thank you. Well, we don’t seem to have any other questions. I want to thank Gina and Jay for joining us today for our first webinar. Thank you for educating us on this. Their contact information is there on the screen. We will have this video up on ATAs website later today. With that, thank you, everybody. Stay safe out there. We’ll see you soon.
Gina: Thanks, Tony. Thanks, everybody. Bye-bye.