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Testing Asymptomatic Employees without Known or Suspected Exposure to COVID-19

Viral testing of workers without symptoms may be useful to detect COVID-19 early and stop transmission quickly, particularly in areas with moderate to substantial community transmission. When communities experience moderate to substantial transmission, workplace settings for which these approaches may be considered include:
  • Workplaces where physical distancing is difficult and workers are in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with co-workers or the public

  • Workplaces in remote settings where medical evaluation or treatment may be delayed

  • Workplaces where continuity of operations is a high priority (e.g., critical infrastructure sectors

  • Workplaces providing congregate housing for employees (e.g. fishing vessels, offshore oil platforms, farmworker housing or wildland firefighter camps)

Approaches may include initial testing of all workers before entering a workplace, periodic testing of workers at regular intervals, and/or targeted testing of new workers or those returning from a prolonged absence. Several factors may be helpful in determining the interval for periodic testing including:
  • The availability of testing

  • The latency between exposure and development of a positive SARS-CoV-2 viral test

  • Businesses that fall into one of the workplace categories described above

  • The rate or change in rate of people getting infected in the surrounding community

  • How many employees tested positive during previous rounds of testing

  • Your relevant experience with workplace outbreaks

State, local, territorial, and tribal health departments may be able to provide assistance on any local context or guidance impacting the workplace. Before testing a large proportion of asymptomatic workers without known or suspected exposure, employers are encouraged to have a plan in place for how they will modify operations based on test results and manage a higher risk of false positive results in a low prevalence population.

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