SHRM Presentation: COVID-19 Workforce Testing

Considerations For the Cold and Flu Season
October 8, 2020
Executive Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to fundamentally change the way we live and work. Containing the spread of this illness that has cost more than 200,000 American livesSource: Johns Hopkins University data,, as of September 28, 2020. remains a challenge. The virus has also profoundly impacted how we work and how employers are thinking about the future, and many uncertainties remain.

Many employers have been struggling to find the right approach to returning critical populations and ensuring business continuity. And as employers bring workers back, ensuring employee health and safety is critical.

This will take a multifaceted approach and testing for coronavirus infections will play a critical role in it. As we head into the cold and flu season, testing for COVID-19 becomes even more important.

In a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) webinar, I shared key focus areas for COVID-19 testing and how companies can respond with flexible, configurable, and comprehensive worksite strategies. Testing can help businesses reopen while helping ensure the safety of their employees returning to worksites as well as their customers and communities.

There are two testing approaches to help mitigate the spread of the virus. Viral tests are diagnostic among those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or asymptomatic individuals with known or suspected recent exposure to the virus. Viral tests can help to control transmission or determine resolution of an infection. Testing, as part of a surveillance strategy, can also be conducted among asymptomatic individuals without known or suspected exposure to the virus for early identification, to detect transmission hot spots, or characterize disease trends.

CVS Health, as an employer and a health care provider, has been focused on increasing access to COVID-19 testing both in the community and to businesses by leveraging our clinical, operational, and technological expertise. By doing so we can help support employers in their response to the pandemic and support business continuity.

There are two primary diagnostic tests to detect active COVID-19 infections – molecular tests and antigen tests:

  • Molecular tests: Molecular tests such as RT-PCR detect genetic material from the virus and have high sensitivity. They often require highly specialized equipment and can take a few days for results.
  • Antigen tests: Antigen tests detect the proteins from the virus to help determine active infections. The antigen tests can be conducted on-site using portable machines that can provide rapid results.

A third type of test – the antibody test – can potentially identify those with a prior infection, but does not detect active infections and should not be used for that purpose.

When evaluating the appropriate testing solution for employees returning to work, there are several important considerations.

Checkmark Speed: The time it takes from taking a sample to the answer, including sample collection, logistics to send out the sample, sample processing, and time to run and interpret test.
Checkmark Sensitivity: The ability of the testing to detect patients with the disease and to avoid false negative results for ill patients.
Checkmark Specificity: The ability to distinguish COVID-19 from other similar viruses and to avoid false positive results for patients who do not have the disease.
Checkmark Cost: The chemical ingredients needed, as well as the labor to collect and process samples drive testing costs.
Checkmark Throughput: The rate of tests that can be analyzed such as per day or per week.
Checkmark Sample type: The type of clinical sample – saliva, oral, or nasal swab, blood sample, lower respiratory swab – and the implications for access, supplies needed, cost, and accuracy.

We understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to testing does not work. Businesses must also consider who, how frequently, and where to test, as well as how to continuously adapt to the latest science.

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October 8, 2020
Executive Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health

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