by Adam Underwood and Greg Lathan

As the highly contagious delta variant spreads across the United States, a surprising number of vaccinated Americans are testing positive for COVID-19.  The promise of a “return to normal” has hit an unexpected roadblock with the growing risk of these breakthrough infections.  According to an early new study, individuals infected with the delta variant may carry more than a thousand times more virus particles, testing positive up to two days earlier than those infected with the original SARS-CoV-2.   

Returning to work required employers to augment best practices like temperature screenings and questionnaires, with more aggressive screening tools like Rapid Antigen Testing (RATs).  And while vaccines instilled a welcome sense of security in many of us, the highly transmissible delta variant has made ongoing testing a MUST in the workplace once again. 

In an earlier COVID related blog, The EI Group summarized the three basic types of COVID tests – PCR, antigen and antibody.  Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) from the FDA have helped bring a number of RATs to market with increasing availability.  RAT screening for the novel coronavirus antigen (or surface proteins) is less costly and significantly faster (15-30 minutes) than PCR tests, allowing for rapid “point of contact” (POC) testing. 

As RATs have become significantly more cost effective for public use, their role in occupational settings to screen entire employee populations (or simply to identify those workers who were in close contact with a COVID carrier) has become an affordable avenue to minimize indoor transmission of the virus.  RAT’s are also more likely to identify those COVID carriers who are the most infectious, with the highest probability of transmitting coronavirus to others 

Since the start of the Pandemic, EI performed temperature screening of over 250,000 employees at 13 highly populated facilities .  Temperature screening identified four employees in 10,000 (or 1 employee in 2,500 workers) as COVID positive.  In contrast, after implementing RATs only once a week, EI was able to identify five COVID carriers in every 350 employees (or one in every 70 individuals!).  It is becoming increasingly apparent that rapid antigen screening will be a game changer in COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.  Given the larger viral load carried by those infected with the Delta variant, RATs will be even more effective in the identification of positive cases.

How Can We Help?
If your workplace needs assistance establishing an occupational COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing process, The EI Group can help! Our cumulative “boots on the ground” knowledge has revealed that proper planning and communication are key to effective/efficient screening of individuals who may be coronavirus carriers before they enter the workplace.   Please do not hesitate to contact us at (800) 717-3472 or [email protected]!