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Should my organization be screening for asymptomatic COVID infections?

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

With daily COVID cases surpassing 100,000 again in the US (and probably multiple times higher due to unreported cases) regard for health and safety has become of utmost importance. Organizations have responded in different ways to the new cases including delaying a return to the office as Apple has done. However, numerous other companies such as Citadel Securities have recognized the importance of in-person teams and a collaborative workforce and have championed safely bringing workers back to the office.

New contagious subvariants of the Omicron strain of COVID have contributed to the increase in COVID cases. They have been especially strong at taking advantage of low booster rates and the waning immunity levels of those vaccinated over 1 year ago. Even though mortality rates for the current infections are less than those from early in the pandemic, COVID infection can still cause serious illness and even death to the vulnerable, unvaccinated, and even vaccinated individuals.

To minimize preventable morbidity and optimize safety, organizations should be addressing whether surveillance testing or screening should be performed. Surveillance testing and screening for COVID both involve examining asymptomatic individuals for the presence of a current COVID infection. This practice has become popular during the pandemic to detect infections that could result in superspreader events. (Note: The terms “surveillance” and “screening” are often used interchangeably to detect asymptomatic infections but strictly speaking the former refers to public health initiatives for population research and the latter refers to testing smaller groups like schools and offices.)

Organizations should be strongly considering testing for asymptomatic infections. The most important indications for this would be a high community prevalence of COVID with closely working teams, those who contact high-value personnel (think movie stars on set or key executives at companies), older or vulnerable individuals, and indoor areas where masking is difficult, and crowded events. While many other circumstances warrant some screening, these situations should be considered mandatory.

COVID is not over. Organizations need to be ready so they are protected from adverse consequences.

Read our case study on how CLEARED4 configured a vaccine status and COVID-19 testing solution for a large public university which included random surveillance testing and campus access controls.

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