COVID-19 most frequently asked questions for returning to work

Dr. Nitin Desai, an Internal Medicine Physician practicing in North Carolina for over 24 years and the Chief Medical Officer of COVID PreCheck, a digital health passport related to COVID-19 joins eHealth Radio and the Health News Channel.

Now that multiple vaccines are available, should employers go back to business as usual?

Well, there are multiple challenges here. A sizable number of employees are not vaccinated. Some of the vaccinated employees may not want to share that information with the employer for those who are vaccinated. Employers are not likely to make COVID vaccination mandatory due to reasons of liability and privacy.

Even though employers are not likely to make COVID vaccination mandatory, they would want to know which employee population has been vaccinated and verify who has been immunized without violating employees’ privacy. Like how there are smoking zones, some employers have already started thinking about creating zones for employees who have been vaccinated or employees who might be at high risk of contracting the virus.   

As employees return to work, what should they expect from their employers to safeguard their health and safety?

Employers are expected to implement several measures like PPEs, engineering measures to allow social distancing, surface disinfectants, and improved ventilation if possible. Employers are expected to comply with local, state, and federal regulations like OSHA related to workplace COVID safety.

There is an increased expectation that employers should be prioritizing employee health, safety, and wellbeing while taking into account the latest health guidelines and recommendations. In a survey, 23% of the respondents would consider quitting their job if they were required to return to the office before all employees were vaccinated! And some 68% of those surveyed said they would receive the vaccine if their employer offered a cash bonus and more paid time off. Employers should take advantage of the free Swiss Cheese Quiz on our website covidprecheck.net  to assess and ensure workplace safety.

How do you see technology playing a role in return-to-work?

Technology makes processes efficient and reproducible on a large scale. For example, displaying different employee statuses, including a self-assessment test for COVID symptoms or exposure, lab tests, return to work notes, or immunization statuses can be displayed via a QR code from a smartphone. 

Several employers were already on their way to digitizing a myriad of internal processes. COVID has only accelerated this journey, and implementing an end-to-end digital strategy to create a safe work environment for employees makes all the sense in the world. But technology on its own is not enough. Employers need a technology platform designed and supported by physicians and that follows CDC and OSHA guidelines. It is also critical that the technology platform leverage well-accepted safety models such as the Swiss Cheese Model maximize the chances of creating a COVID-free workplace.   

LISTEN FULL PODCAST – Interview with ehealth Radio Network’s host Eric Michaels and guest Dr. Nitin Desai