With states and businesses beginning to reopen, the fear of a second outbreak looms heavy over the proceedings. As businesses develop return to work plans, one of the biggest components is anticipating and addressing employees’ return to work concerns, including many lingering health and safety concerns. One way officials and experts are hoping to combat the continued mass spread of COVID-19 is through contact tracing.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is a standard strategy for disease control used by public health professionals to help stop the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Like a detective trying to crack a case, the contact tracing process is centered on interviewing those who have tested positive for the virus and determining others who have been in close contact with that person. According to the CDC, a close contact is someone “who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated.”
By connecting the dots of contact points, officials can gather further information and provide guidance to help everyone stay safe while working to limit the spread of the disease. A thorough and successful contact tracing process helps slow the transmission of the disease within a community or business. To conduct contact tracing in the workplace, employers will need to take advantage of apps, proximity-based technologies, and digital monitoring through ID badges, phones, or computers.
Key concepts of contact tracing
According to the CDC, these are the key elements of contact tracing:
- Trace and monitor contacts of infected people. Notify them, including employers and fellow employees, of their exposure.
- Support the quarantine of contacts. Help ensure the safe, sustainable, and effective quarantine of contacts to prevent additional transmission.
- Expand staffing resources. Contact tracing in the U.S. requires that states, tribes, localities, and territories establish large cadres of contact tracers.
- Use digital tools. Adoptions and evaluation of digital tools may expand the reach and efficacy of contact tracers.
Utilizing contact tracing in the workplace
When an employee tests positive for coronavirus or is showing signs that they may have it, businesses must have a plan in place for dealing with the situation quickly, thoroughly, and as privately as possible.
- Identify who the infected people may have been in contact with while at work—co-workers, management, clients/customers, etc.
- Alert those who were exposed without revealing the identity of the infected individual. Privacy must be a top concern in regards to communication, workplace data, and health information.
- Provide those contacted with information and support to about why they at- risk, isolation recommendations, monitor themselves for illness, and express to them the real possibility that they could spread the infection to others even if they are not showing symptoms.
- Work closely with and under the advisement of state and local health departments, as well as any other official entity overseeing contact tracing in your area.
- Always be aware of and take into consideration the legal guidelines around discrimination, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Netchex’s Contact Tracing Report
With Netchex, our Time and Attendance solution can help you participate in contact tracing by identifying potential contacts who were working at an identified location at the same time as an employee afflicted with (or suspected to have) COVID-19.
Within Netchex’s COVID-19 Response Portal, you can create a simple, yet effective report that compiles a list of at-risk employees that may have been exposed after working at the same time and location as an afflicted employee. If an employee contacts their HR rep and informs them they have tested positive for COVID -19, the rep can then run this report and see who all worked during the same shift.
To run the report:
- Input your company code
- Enter the name(s) of afflicted employee(s)
- Define look back period parameters (suggested 14 days, as recommended by the CDC)
- Customize your search by department, terminal group, or payroll group, as well as physical hardware clock (if being used)
This report enables the company to stay ahead of any potential infection before it spreads beyond control. This report will also help inform employers which office and communal spaces need more thorough cleaning and disinfection.
The Contact Tracing Report is now available in Netchex’s COVID-19 Response Portal.
Netchex remains fully operational through this unprecedented time. Our staff is hard at work for businesses like yours that are working diligently to remain in operation, adapt their policies, ensure the safety of their employees, and remain compliant with new COVID-19 laws. Netchex is here to help you accomplish all of this and more.