For many months, the healthcare world has been significantly affected by the swift and pervasive effects of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. The virus has severely affected the delivery of patient care by all providers, including those in hospitals and emergency care settings, who grappled with the response to massive influxes of COVID-19 patients, and those in office practices forced to discontinue non-essential services for a period of time due to public health order restrictions. This public health emergency has created lingering uncertainty in determining how to provide healthcare in this new normal while also ensuring workforce and patient safety.
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Explore This IssueAugust 2020
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As we head into natural disaster and influenza season, providers should focus on several key practices to create a safer, more stable environment while remaining vigilant for a COVID-19 resurgence.
Continue COVID-19 Screenings
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) presented data-based forecasts of COVID-19 case trends for the U.S. showing resurgences of COVID-19 will likely vary by geographic region. Thus, COVID-19 screening will continue to be important both for employment purposes and patient treatment purposes.
Providers should consider the differences between workforce and patient screenings, including business requirements, medical necessity requirements and how the tests are regulated at federal and state levels. What remains abundantly clear for test administration is the obligation to provide accurate and reliable options under current guidance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) General Duty Clause requires employers furnish each worker a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
Keeping employees and staff healthy is critical for businesses to continue operating seamlessly and to avoid possible transmission of the virus to patients. Outside renewed or new public health orders, providers must determine what type of screening and testing protocols to implement for their workforces.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to public employers and private employers with 15 or more employees. Enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the ADA continues to apply during a pandemic, but does not interfere with, or prevent employers from following, additional state or local orders set by governors, public health directors or surgeons general.
The ADA requires any mandatory medical test for employees be “job related and consistent with business necessity.” Thus, employers are permitted to test employees entering the workplace for COVID-19, because an individual with the virus poses a direct threat to the health of others, especially in a healthcare setting where patient safety is critical. Therefore, an employer may choose to administer a COVID-19 test or require an employee to provide certification they are virus free.