Fedweek

The CDC has issued guidance on requiring federal employees to be tested for the Coronavirus in order to enter—or remain at—a federal workplace, while leaving agencies with discretion over the circumstances in which they may conduct such testing and how often.

The guidance says it is designed to “provide federal agencies with strategies to consider for incorporating testing” into their COVID-19 workplace safety plans as called for by a January executive order from President Biden. It comes as agencies have been bringing many employees back to their official duty stations, with widespread expectations of still more ahead, as vaccination rates increase and many general pandemic-related restrictions are being eased.

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“Workplace-based testing for SARS-CoV-2 could identify federal employees and contractors with SARSCoV-2 infection, and thus help prevent or reduce further transmission,” it says, adding that its terms do not apply to federal employees working in healthcare facilities, nursing home and long-term care facilities, or correctional or detention facilities “where setting-specific recommendations apply.”

It says that the EEOC “has determined that testing to determine if an employee has a SARS-CoV-2 infection with an ‘accurate and reliable test’ is permissible as a condition to enter the workplace because an employee with the virus will ‘pose a direct threat to the health of others.’ EEOC notes that testing administered by employers that is consistent with current CDC guidance will meet” requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The guidance gives two main scenarios for testing:

· “Diagnostic” testing for identifying a possible current infection, to be performed when an employee “has signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or when a person is asymptomatic or presymptomatic but has recent known or suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2.” It says that agencies “should refer” for this testing any employee with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or who were actually or potentially exposed to it; if the exposure occurred on the job, agencies are to pay the costs.

· “Screening” testing for identifying “persons who might be contagious but are unaware allows implementation of measures to prevent further transmission.” Agencies “might consider” ordering such testing in workplaces where workers “are in close contact with the public or workplaces in communities with moderate to high transmission,” where “physical distancing is difficult and workers might be in close contact,” workplaces “with a high proportion of employees or other people at increased risk for severe illness,” and where “there is a high likelihood of impacting mission critical activities.”

“Each federal agency should apply this guidance according to the situation in their workplace or workforce,” it says, adding that testing is to be used as a supplement to other steps such as mask-wearing and social distancing requirements, and not as a substitute for them.

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