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Employee COVID-testing strategies outlined in new KDHE Playbook

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 4:48 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - With COVID-19 tests becoming commonplace in workplace environments, the KDHE has put together a guide to help employers navigate the best strategies.

With more employers expressing their interest in testing employees for COVID-19, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it developed an Employer COVID-19 Testing Playbook.

The KDHE said the Playbook is meant to support businesses who want to offer testing to prevent COVID outbreaks in their workplace and help keep their businesses open. Just as schools in Kansas are successfully staying open by identifying cases and stopping outbreaks, it said employers can also use tests to screen against the virus and protect the community.

“As businesses and employers prioritize safe environments for employees and customers, COVD-19 testing becomes an increasingly important way for those who are unvaccinated to work, attend events, and travel,” said Dr. Lee Norman, MD, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “Although vaccination remains the most effective way to protect against serious illness and death due to COVID-19, testing can also play a vital role.”

The new Playbook provides an overview of COVID testing for employees, including descriptions of the types of tests and how they are given, policies for managing those who test positive, a menu of vendors who can help businesses with testing and an explanation of the types of tests that can be reimbursed.

The KDHE said the Playbook will be incorporated in Kansas’s unified testing strategy that Governor Laura Kelly introduced in 2020. Through partnerships with Wichita State University, it said Kansas was able to double the amount of testing done by the end of 2020.

With Summer 2021′s delta variant surge and limited federal funding for testing, the KDHE said it plans to work with labs, community testing partners and local public health departments to update the strategy in the coming weeks.

“I have been gratified by the many community partners who have worked with us to ensure increased access to COVID-19 testing,” said Marci Nielsen, PhD, Chief Advisor for COVID-19 Coordination for Governor Kelly. “We appreciate their continued leadership as we work together to update the unified testing strategy and ensure its financial sustainability”.

Until the COVID-19 vaccine is widespread, the KDHE said employers and health insurers will be asked more and more to pay for testing. Even with rates of the delta variant slowly falling, it said the virus is not expected to go away.

The KDHE said scientists expect COVID-19 to continue to circulate through the population, much like the flu. Moving forward, it said it will be a shared responsibility to pay for both public and private sectors to ensure Kansans have access to testing. It said the Employer Playbook will help enable employers to test their workforce for the virus and help prevent the virus.

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