A little over 16 months has passed since COVID-19 was first detected, with various degrees of lock-downs significantly impacting Canadians, from coast to coast.
But optimism is beginning to replace gloom, with many vaccines becoming increasingly available. Thankfully, the pace of vaccinations is accelerating at a satisfactory rate, and we have good reason to hope that the tide is beginning to change.
Many companies are asking whether the need for testing will decline with multiple vaccines in the market and as vaccinations increase. Vaccines are helping to reduce the number of cases across the country and at workplaces. However, COVID-19 screening is needed to control the pandemic. Screening involves different testing methods such as Antigen testing, low-cost PCR testing, and rapid on-site response. WMC’s medical professionals believe we need to temper our expectations even with the rapid roll-out of the vaccinations. Screening remains critical.
Here are three reasons why testing must continue.
1. New COVID-19 variants change the equation
Recently, we have heard about variants in many parts of the world. This is when the virus is constantly replicating and potentially becoming more contagious and deadly. Even though the vaccines are in full force and are good at averting severe illness, there is the ongoing concern of variants and asymptomatic carriers.
A variant is more transmissible and can spread faster. It must be traced and stopped in its tracks because it results in new strains and can produce more severe symptoms if the virus mutates.
Without testing, new and harmful variants of the COVID-19 virus could run rampant undetected, leaving many at the workplace and especially those with chronic illnesses vulnerable. Testing can identify and track new variants, allowing experts to determine whether the antibodies are still effective against the virus.
These concerns clearly show that there is still much work to be done before reaching full immunity.
2. Immunization does not mean eradication
Immunization does not mean entire eradication because the virus is still spreading among us. Currently, the vaccines in use do not stop transmission of the virus; they primarily reduce the likelihood of hospitalization or prevent severe symptoms. As the severity of symptoms is lessened, those vaccinated will not know if they are carrying the virus until tested.
3. People with chronic illnesses are vulnerable
People with chronic illnesses, such as cardiac conditions and diabetics, are at greater risk as they have a compromised immune system and might be around asymptomatic individuals carrying and transmitting the disease at the workplace. This is why testing is essential and should be carried out twice during the workweek. Testing remains a vital tool for controlling the virus spread.
Minimizing the spread of COVID-19
Screening for COVID-19 will make it easier for organizations across Canada to resume operations and have employees return to the office. No matter what test is used, each one will help break the chain of transmission amongst employees and beyond. Consequently, employers have a vital role in minimizing the spread of the virus among employees who cannot work from home by introducing regular testing.
WMC is proactively reaching out to organizations, stressing the importance of continuous screening for COVID-19 at the workplace and encouraging employers to take the needed steps. Regardless of vaccination success, it is not the time to ease up on infection disease protocols. Testing, social distancing, masks and handwashing remain very important because people vaccinated can still contract and transmit the virus, and asymptomatic carriers can quickly infect people unknowingly, resulting in a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.
Even though a growing percentage of Canadians and Americans have received their first dose, the second round of shots is critical before we can event contemplate “herd immunity.” And then there is the potential need for booster shots. And getting a vaccination does not eliminate the risk to people with chronic illnesses. In fact, they need to be protected regardless of the vaccination levels achieved in the general population.
With extensive experience in infection control for organizations and testing protocols, along with the capability to provide 24/7 testing services, WMC offers a comprehensive and customizable COVID-19 assessment program with recommendations tailored to each organization’s needs.
Our testing programs include: Antigen testing, low-cost PCR testing and rapid response testing capabilities. These can significantly reduce the potential of COVID-19 transmission at the workplace. We can complete both symptomatic and asymptomatic screening that meets the highest compliance standards. It is especially important to test asymptomatic employees who show no signs or symptoms and are unaware that they are carrying and spreading the virus.
Ending the transmission of the virus is one way we can return to normal, which can only be achieved through a combination of factors. The two critical factors are vaccinations and periodical testing. These will help us defeat coronavirus and stop it from spreading by tracking its movements and variant developments.