The Rebound Detroit: How businesses should test office workers for COVID-19

Posted at 8:28 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 08:29:42-04

As companies take caution steps toward reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaders are grappling with how to welcome their workforce back while keeping the virus in check.

So far, most employers are using an honor system and asking employees to self-report their symptoms, but knowing who's for sure carrying the virus and who isn't will be important in our nation's rebound.

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State, local and CDC guidelines are calling for employees to screen workers for COVID-19 and some are even doing temperature checks, but these passive steps might miss workers who are symptom-free or just don't admit to having symptoms.

Now, some workers are considering coronavirus testing to determine who is actively infected, but the larger the business, the larger the challenge.

Dr. Neal Mills is the chief medical officer at AON, a professional services firm that advises companies on workplace benefits.

"Imagine a large manufacturer, maybe there's 20,000 employees showing up. That might be nearly impossible to do but if you begin with a randomized approach," he said. "Use the other screening methods and then you did serial testing to establish that the negatives were truly negative that might be an approach."

Mills said serial testing is needed to confirm positive and negative results.

Companies are also navigating health care privacy rules with workplace safety requirements.

"If someone in my workplace contracts virus what risk do I have? AON Chief Innovation Officer Jim Winkler said. "If a customer contracts the virus in my workplace, what liability exposure do I have and how do I balance that business risk with the adverse impact of not being open?:

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the city is opening up testing for all Detroiters and establishing guidelines for city workers that include testing and daily monitoring.

Mills said Aon clients are telling their workers that they'll open when it makes sense from a business and health standpoint, not just because a government leader said they can.

They're also looking at bringing employees back in phases, and some are considering more flexibility surrounding time off policies with schools still closed.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.

See all of our Helping Each Other stories.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.