With the rise of the Delta variant across the country the CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. This reverses their earlier guidance permitting those fully vaccinated to bypass wearing masks.
Individuals may also want to wear a mask regardless of local transmission levels if they or someone in their household have:
a weakened immune system
an underlying medical condition
a higher risk of severe COVID-19 because of their age
not yet been vaccinated
We agree with the CDC’s new guidance especially with the rise in cases and fatalities due to the Delta variant. Although those who are unvaccinated at higher risk, breakthrough cases are still possible. Fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks and screen for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested and stay home if they are symptomatic. If they test positive they should follow isolation procedure and stay home for 10 days per the CDC guidelines.
The CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated individuals was welcome news for many hoping to return to regular activities with a sense of normalcy. However, the announcement lacked clear guidance to help businesses identify vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals. Businesses are now left to their own devices to establish vaccine tracking protocols and safety measures to accommodate the diverse needs of their mixed immunity workforce. Mixed immunity indicates there are employees with varying degrees of immunity to COVID-19.
Why do you need a vaccine tracking system?
As there is rising controversy over Federal vaccine passports and one does not look likely, employers must establish their own internal system for identifying the vaccination status of employees and patrons. Businesses must track this information so they can identify who, at their workplace, can bypass safety precautions such as masking and social distancing. Without a vaccine tracking system in place, Human Resources must uphold all their current safety measures at full capacity. This action may instill resentment in fully vaccinated employees but without any precautions in place businesses risk endangering their unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated employees.
Current states with mandates to record and confirm employee vaccination status to relieve mask mandates
We recommend automating your vaccine tracking system to make the process easy for employees to log and update their status. A digital vaccination tracking report enables Human Resources to easily view employee immunity status to inform reopening plans and workplace safety protocols. Additionally, Employers can easily download employee vaccination information to comply with local reporting requirements.
When inquiring on employee vaccination status, employers should consider asking the following questions:
What type of vaccine did you receive?
When did you receive the vaccination? If applicable: When did you receive the second booster vaccination?
Where did you receive the vaccination?
Can you upload a photo of your vaccination card?
Tips to help employers encourage vaccination at the workplace
Many of our customers are employing these measures to optimize their vaccine adoption rate. Find out how these tips can help you mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace.
Employers should ensure employees have access to accurate vaccine information
Employers aiming to increase their employee vaccination rate should keep their employees informed of their options and be open to questions. One of our customers, Redstone Highlands Communities, doubled their vaccination rate by establishing proactive measures to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Gauge employee sentiment to inform your outreach plan
Another step employers can take is to create a voluntary survey inquiring on employee willingness to get vaccinated. Employers can utilize this information to plan their vaccine outreach campaigns, assess workplace risk, and plan their future workplace safety measures.
Establish post-vaccine incentives for employees
Many employers have already started establishing employee vaccination incentive programs such as paid time off. With the new CDC guidance employers can also relieve mask restrictions and social distancing requirements for fully vaccinated employees.
Book a demo to learn more about our vaccine tracking tools!
ReturnSafe’s Command Center helps HR leaders to quickly visualize risk, to cost-effectively prevent and manage outbreaks and to reduce healthcare costs
AUSTIN, TEXAS — April 6, 2021 — ReturnSafe, the holistic software solution for infectious disease management (IDM) helping businesses reopen and stay open, today announced the launch of its Command Center. This integrated, comprehensive digital platform equips employers with the data and tools they need to prevent and manage infectious disease outbreaks in the workplace while keeping their employees safe, healthy, and confident in returning to physical spaces. Features such as vaccine management, symptom screening, testing data, contact tracing data, and isolation and quarantine case management give employers a 360-degree view of risk across their workforces and physical locations. These tools also enable them to easily comply with new COVID-19 guidelines and regulations regarding safe reopening of the workplace.
“The current reality is that experts predict COVID-19 will reach endemic status, just like the seasonal flu. It’s urgent that we create long-term solutions to address the future of infectious disease management in the workplace. Our economy and collective mental health depend on it,” said Tarun Nimmagadda, CEO and Co-Founder of ReturnSafe. “Existing methods to manage employee safety were either manual or COVID-washed band-aids of existing solutions. Employers are realizing that they will need more scalable solutions to navigate the next phases of the virus, and our COVID-19 Command Center is the only solution 100 percent guided by people living through the experience.”
Implementing Command Center will enable employers to develop data-driven return-to-work strategies for an inevitably, mixed-immunity population. The new platform is designed to help employers efficiently manage COVID-19 case workflows and reduce the logistical burden of manual processes, which often lead to missed information and increased risk.
“We’ve been using ReturnSafe for almost eight months. It has been a core element of our layered strategy to keep our faculty, staff, and students safe, and most recently, to track our university community’s progress toward our vaccination goals,” said John Montgomery, Chief Information Technology Officer at Madonna University. “We have tightly coordinated with the ReturnSafe team each step of the way. Command Center is directly based on feedback from our university and others managing this pandemic. Its intuitive and trustworthy digital platform will help eliminate the need to manually manage contact tracing data with a spreadsheet. I highly recommend the ReturnSafe technology and team to any workplace or organization attempting to navigate this tricky landscape.”
Businesses using ReturnSafe’s Command Center have access to:
Case Management: All data entries and information is compiled in one dashboard, displaying employees with potential, active, or cleared cases of COVID-19. Administrators have access to all the information needed to efficiently manage outbreaks, ensuring teams are following prescribed safety protocols.
Test Management: Employers’ external testing providers can now directly upload employee test results into the Command Center Dashboard. Administrators can utilize this information to take immediate action when there is a positive test, and quickly update employees’ building access abilities.
Vaccine Management: As employers navigate mixed-immunity workforces, this tool provides a report on important employee vaccination information, including vaccine provider, date, location and eventual booster status. This feature also includes employee sentiment surveys, where administrators can gauge attitudes toward taking the vaccination among their workforce, providing meaningful insights for creating programs to address employee concerns.
“By implementing Command Center, HR leaders will be able to achieve dual business outcomes by avoiding losses due to closure and to reduce overall healthcare costs for their employee population. Employee confidence and morale is also significantly improved,” said Jikku Venkat, Chief Technology Officer, Vice President of Product, and Co-Founder of ReturnSafe. “After facing more than a year of unimaginable loss, the last thing workers should be concerned about is returning to an unsafe environment in order to keep food on the table.”
ReturnSafe is on a mission to prevent and reduce the spread of infectious diseases at workplaces and schools. In just six short months, ReturnSafe has amassed more than 60 customers – including Sesame Workshop, San Antonio Spurs, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and several universities and schools – and protected the lives of more than 20,000 employees and stakeholders.
About ReturnSafe ReturnSafe is a holistic software solution for infectious disease management (IDM) that is helping businesses, universities, healthcare facilities, sports teams and major venues businesses reopen and stay open. Its end-to-end platform provides daily health screening, exposure notification, and contact tracing and case management for COVID-19 and other contagious diseases. ReturnSafe is based in Austin, TX and backed byFifty Years, Necessary Ventures and Active Capital. To help keep everyone in your organization safe with human-driven, technology-supported solutions, visit www.returnsafe.com.
Check out our blog posts below to learn about our customers’ COVID-19 journeys and to get the latest health and safety updates. Scroll down to watch our latest webinar on best practices for reopening sports and entertainment venues and preview our new product features.
Vaccination Day at Redstone Highlands: Tips to Encourage Adoption
Redstone was able to successfully double their vaccine adoption rate. Check out our blog to find out how you can overcome vaccine hesitancy. Read more
What Employers Need to Know About the New COVID-19 Variants
What should employers know about the new COVID-19 variants? Read our blog to learn more about the variants and how they can impact your workplace operations. Read more
Watch Now: NCS4 Webinar
Sports and Entertainment venues want to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience for fans. Watch the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) webinar featuring our team and ParkHub to find out how organizations like the Spurs are utilizing technology to confidently reopen. Watch Now
Are you looking for screening, contact tracing, testing, case management, and vaccine management tools for your organization? Book a demo to learn more about our solution!
What should employers know about the new variants of COVID-19? How can management teams prepare for new strains?
News and Updates on the COVID-19 Variants
There are 6 highly transmissible variants: B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B1.351 or 501Y.V2 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427(California), B.1.429 (Epsilon), and B.1.617 (Delta)
There is concern the COVID-19 variant mutations will have slightly weakened protection from the vaccines
We are not sure how effective certain viral tests are at identifying the variants
What businesses should know about the arrival of the new variants
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website provides information and updates related to the COVID-19 variants.
What is a variant?
Viruses are constantly mutating and, over time, they can become variants. Some emerging variants disappear and others persist.
What do we know about the new variants?
Currently five variants of the virus have been identified in the U.S. which spread more easily and faster than previous variants. India has a new variant which poses a global concern but has not been noted as present in the U.S.
Alpha Variant: What you need to know
One of the first variants to arrive in the US was the Alpha variant identified last fall in the UK. This variant is also referred to as B.1.1.7.
Studies report that this variant is more fatal than others. The variant was first detected in a US case last December.
Beta Variant: What you need to know
The Beta variant is known as B1.351 or 501Y.V2 and was first identified last October in South Africa. This variant was first detected in a US case in late January.
Gamma Variant: What you need to know
The Gamma variant, also known as P.1, was identified in Brazilian travelers at an airport in Japan in January. Additional mutations in this variant may impact it being identifiable by antibodies. The mutations present a danger of reinfection and potential diminished vaccine efficacy if the variant is able to evade our immune system. This variant was first detected in a US case in late January.
Epsilon Variants: What you need to know
There are two Epsilon variants, they are also referred to as B.1.427 and B.1.429, they were first identified in February 2021. They were classified as VOCs, variants of concern, in March 2021
Delta Variant: What you need to know
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617, was designated as a global “variant of concern” in May 2021 and has reached the U.S. According to the WHO, preliminary studies show this variant, like the others listed above, spreads more easily than other strains of the new coronavirus. The variant was found in India.
What we don’t know about the variants
Will the new variants impact the efficacy of the vaccine?
According to nature, scientists are still debating whether the new variants will impact the effectiveness of the current COVID-19 vaccines. There are vaccine developers that plan to update their shots to target the variants.
According to CNBC, the FDA may eliminate the lengthy clinical trial requirement for COVID-19 vaccines modified to work against the variants. Pfizer and Moderna are already working on modifying their vaccines given the variants and the current mutation rate. HR managers should monitor the variants that enter their workplace. They should have a system to track of who has been vaccinated with the current vaccine and who receives the variant modified vaccines or boosters.
Do the new variants impact the accuracy of COVID-19 tests?
The FDA has noted that the new COVID-19 variants may cause molecular tests to generate false negatives. Further studies are needed to identify the impact each new variant may have on the accuracy of COVID-19 tests.
Proactive health safety measures can help you prevent outbreaks
Health screening for work should be a requirement, if not already
Health screenings for work should be a requirement to ensure employee safety. Businesses will need to implement multiple health safety measures to manage the new variants and increased COVID-19 cases. Even organizations without state, local, or public health screening guidelines should make screening employees a requirement to prevent outbreaks,
Logging close contacts in the workplace is essential before employees report positive for a rapid response
California’s OSHA requires employers send exposure notifications to employees, contractors, and other employers within 24 hours. These notifications are to inform them that they were exposed to someone infected COVID-19. All business owners should send notifications to potentially exposed employees as soon as possible to prevent outbreaks.
Employers should have access to a platform where they can easily see which employees were exposed to the virus. Additionally, employees should be able to easily report their close contacts to create a safe and healthy workplace.
Encouraging and tracking vaccine adoption can help you achieve herd immunity
The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. safeguard us against most variants spreading in the U.S. The current vaccines will have the benefit of strengthening your immune system overall and potentially lessen the impact of a COVID-19 variant infection. As Dr. Fauci notes, the vaccines provide protection from the virus and prevent the emergence of new variants. Widespread vaccination is crucial to prevent new strains and mutations. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is crucial to fight the variants, a new study found that, after two weeks of the second dose, the vaccine was 88% effective against the Delta variant and and 93% effective against the Alpha variant.
Time to review your safety protocols and ensure they will meet this new challenge
Employers should feel confident that their pandemic safety program can handle emerging variants. Companies that do not prepare may face losses in productivity.
If your current process is manual, when variants spread and new cases arise, you will need to hire more employees to manage your workload. Are you currently using paper-based screening surveys and manual contact tracers? Automating these processes can be more cost-effective and enables management to take action in real time to prevent outbreaks.
If your current solution is digital, does it meet all your needs? Employers should evaluate their current solution to ensure it meets all their pandemic safety requirements. Does your screening solution encourage and track compliance? Are administrators easily able to track close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases?
Employers, especially those for larger organizations should consider risk mitigation strategies. A broad based testing program allows organizations to identify asymptomatic cases and infection hotspots. Finally, employers should have a system in place to keep track of employee vaccination status and workplace immunity levels.
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on our country’s most vulnerable, with long-term carecommunities at the top of the list. The elderly are most at-risk for experiencing severe and life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19. Operating and managing Independent Living, Personal Care, and Skilled Nursing across three campuses, Redstone Highlands Communities took immediate action to protect the vulnerable populations that they serve.Bypartnering with ReturnSafe, Redstone has been better able to keep residents and staff healthy and safe and reduced community spread.
Proactive Pandemic Safety Is Top Priority for Redstone
Redstone first partnered with ReturnSafe to transition from a manual daily health screening process to a digital solution. Their previous system relied heavily on a front-office employee to help with written attestation and temperature checks, causing long lines at shift change. This process costs $14,000 per month to staff across 3 facilities. Additionally, when outbreaks occurred, these employees were also responsible for identifying and contacting exposed individuals, a slow and manual process. With staff shortages across the communities, keeping employees healthy to care for residents was essential, and speed and efficiency critical.
Employees have been reporting their COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, and contacts in ReturnSafe’sdaily health screening app since July 2020. Administrators can monitor and respond to screening survey results through a centralized dashboard. The solution’s customizability makes it easy to adhere to the constantly evolving guidelines and requirements set forth by local and state public health agencies. Redstone estimates that they are saving $154,500 per year by using ReturnSafe for their screening process.
Redstone also began on-site testing at all of their communities, which, combined with daily health screening, allows them to quickly identify and respond to potential outbreaks. By implementing these measures, Redstone has successfully kept their infection rate well below their county’s overall average.
Even before the COVID-19 vaccines were approved, Redstone administrators were surveying staff and residents on their willingness to be vaccinated. Early data showed that a majority of residents hoped to be vaccinated as soon as possible, but less than half (40 percent) of employees were willing to get vaccinated when a vaccine became available to them. Leaders at Redstone knew that increasing their population’s willingness to get vaccinated would be critical in achieving herd immunity. An informational brochure was developed that explained the vaccines in understandable and relatable language. Frequently asked questions were highlighted on “stall notes” hung in employee bathroom stalls. Respected leaders were readily available to answer questions and discuss vaccine decisions. Colorful vaccine hero buttons were distributed to those who were planning to be vaccinated and an upbeat video was produced, sharing testimony from all levels of employees who were ready to be vaccinated.
On Monday, January 11, Redstone Highlands Communities held their first “Vaccine Day”. It was a very exciting day where residents and staff received the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the seriousness of the pandemic, there was a festive atmosphere as employees and residents embraced the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Three Keys to Overcoming Workplace Vaccine Hesitancy
As vaccines are rolled out across the country, reducing workplace vaccine hesitancy is top of mind for today’s HR executives. Individuals who are hesitant about taking the vaccine may be concerned about vaccine safety and health risks. Redstone originally expected 40% of their residents and staff would get vaccinated. However, as the first round of vaccines concluded they were able to increase participation to over 80% of employees and 99% of residents! How were they able to encourage adoption? Three core components were crucial to their success.
Be a Trusted Source of Information
Through the survey process, Redstone was able to identify the most common concerns about the vaccine shared among employees. Redstone established itself as a dependable source of vaccine information amongst staff and residents. Through the production of print materials, handouts, posters, letters, social media, and emails – myths about the vaccine were addressed and fact-based knowledge was provided.
Establish a Safe and Inclusive Culture
Employees should feel safe and supported by their peers and management. They need to feel that their employers are taking adequate measures to keep them safe. In the case of Redstone’s vaccine initiative, morale played a major part in easing resident and staff concerns. At this time, Redstone has not made the vaccine mandatory. Redstone believes that creating an environment of safety and trust went further in increasing participation, without negatively impacting employee morale. Trusted Redstone leaders also fielded dozens of phone calls and in-person visits with employees to openly discuss vaccine concerns, and to be supportive partners in vaccine decisions.
Build Trust By Being Proactive
By establishing a simple and accessible screening and testing process, Redstone demonstrated that the health of their staff and residents was the top priority. These actions built trust between them and their community. Their consistent communication and dedication to informing their community have built upon that rapport. Employees and residents trusted Redstone and were willing to get vaccinated to keep their community safe. In addition, employee benefits and incentives were extended to those who chose to be vaccinated. For example, in the unlikely case that an employee tests positive for COVID-19 after vaccination, that employee will be provided with paid time off to complete the quarantine or to recover. Those who chose not to be vaccinated, elect to forego this benefit.
What should employers do to prepare for the vaccine?
There are manyresources available to help guide you and your team as you establish a COVID-19 vaccine management plan. The best defense against workplace vaccine hesitancy is information to assure employees that they are making an informed decision. Like Redstone, employers should begin enacting measures now to encourage employee vaccine adoption.The CDC provides aVaccine Communications Toolkit for Essential Workers to help educate employees about COVID-19 vaccines. The toolkit informs employees of vaccination benefits, and addresses common questions and concerns.ReturnSafe provides vaccination management capabilities to help organizations on the path to herd immunity. This service includes surveying employee vaccination sentiment and tracking vaccination status across your organization.Book a demo to learn more about ReturnSafe’s vaccine management and health screening services.