The light at the end of the COVID tunnel seemed near just a few months ago, but the delta variant has thrown return-to-work plans back into uncertainty, as employers figure out what’s next.
By the end of July, the CDC reported that the delta variant was behind more than 80% of new U.S. COVID cases, forcing a third of employers to delay their office reopening plans, according to Castlight Health.
As many employees wonder if they will see the inside of an office this fall, companies need to start viewing pandemics as inevitable forces like any other natural disaster, says Ashley Heather, co-founder, president and chief operating officer of the health management platform, CLEARED4.
“I think we will always have the risk of a pandemic,” says Heather. “So every corporation needs a plan. We compare it to a disaster recovery plan.”
CLEARED4 works with various companies and institutions such as Netflix, Google, Madison Square Garden and the City University of New York to provide a cloud-based health verification system for those who wish to access these spaces. Whether employers ask for vaccination proof, a negative COVID test or even a simple temperature check, CLEARED4 is a one-stop compliance hub for employees to upload their information and have it accessible for entry into their workspace.
Platforms like CLEARED4 may be essential to long-term COVID protocols for companies looking to embrace the “new normal,” while getting people back to the office, Heather explains. Some states, including New York, California, Hawaii and Oregon already have digital vaccination statuses, which allow vaccinated individuals to be exempt from some COVID restrictions. Companies have been quick to integrate their communities into a health status system. Within four hours of CLEARED4’s launch to 6,000 corporate employees, over 50% uploaded proof of vaccination, gaining a “BluePass,” which then allows employees to access their workspaces in compliance with company policy. Netflix alone has 8,800 users on the platform, with 74% vaccinated.
However, companies are still faced with uncertainty as they decide which exact protocols to enact. Castlight noted that only 13% of those surveyed planned on mandating vaccines, while 38% are unsure if they will conduct surveillance testing.
“Netflix allows people to be tested in real-time on the premises if you're not vaccinated,” says Heather. “They're providing that flexibility and covering the cost of it because they realized that that's what they need to do.”
As of now, flexibility — namely, allowing employees to choose between frequent testing or evidence of a complete vaccination status — is more common than outright vaccine mandates, especially as companies like Tyson Foods experience pushback from employees who are still refusing to be vaccinated.
“It's always going to be bifurcated,” Heather says. “CLEARED4 provides more flexibility to a corporation by providing different options for those competing groups. Everybody should still reach some level of safety before coming on the premises.”
Heather’s advice to employers is to be proactive, whether it means using a platform like CLEARED4 or manually tracking their employees’ health status. Tracking community health will continue to be vital, especially since Heather foresees neither pandemics nor CLEARED4 going anywhere.
“We're always going to be there in the background,” says Heather. “Whether we are turned on at full volume or half volume or zero volume, we're still part of the ecosystem.”