With the wide availability of free, safe, and effective vaccines for COVID-19, the role of testing has begun to change. Many private employers are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated and offering testing to their unvaccinated employees to quickly identify individuals with COVID-19 infection so they can reduce ongoing transmission of the virus at the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a federal rule will require large employers (a 100 or more employees) to test their unvaccinated employees on a weekly basis. Lyon County Public Health and Flint Hills Community Health Center will not be performing these weekly tests on unvaccinated staff that are required by employers.
KDHE has drafted a Playbook to assist employers in testing their workforce and will update this playbook as federal and state regulations are updated. The Playbook is intended to support all businesses that wish to offer employee testing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in their workplace and help keep their businesses open. The Playbook is available at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/291/Employer-Based-Testing
The Playbook will be incorporated to the state’s unified testing strategy that Governor Laura Kelly introduced a year ago. That strategy helped ensure COVID-19 testing was available across the state by coordinating public and private COVID-19 testing efforts and encouraging routine screening in places like schools and nursing homes, to stop the spread of COVID-19 before it starts. In addition, KDHE has a COVID-19 Testing Map which directs Kansans to locations across the state where they can get free testing. The availability of these testing sites is dependent upon need, as well as federal funding.
Even with widespread vaccination against COVID-19, the virus is not expected to entirely go away. Scientists expect SARS-CoV2 to continue circulating in the population, not unlike the flu. Moving forward, COVID-19 testing will increasingly become a shared responsibility for both the public and private sector ensuring Kansans across the state have adequate access to testing. Although the OSHA regulations are not final and thus subject to change, employers are expected to be responsible for the costs of their employee testing programs.
Additional information can be found at www.publichealth.lyoncounty.org