Small Firms Struggle With Testing Staff for COVID-19

The cost, logistics of safety checks are challenging; meanwhile a new study says antibodies may be short-lived.

June 22, 2020

WASHINGTON—Soupergirl owner Sara Polon shells out $800 weekly for 30 COVID-19 testing of her employees, the Wall Street Journal reports. As with other small businesses, Polon is trying to keep her workers and customers safe while juggling the cost, logistics and privacy concerns of regular COVID-19 testing. “We’re asking people to come to work. We have an obligation as business owners to keep our teams safe,” said Polon.

Ability Engineering Technology Inc. gave employees the opportunity for voluntary testing when it reopened its South Holland, Illinois, facility on June 1. However, less than a third of the staff wanted the testing. “I expected everyone to jump at the opportunity for a free test, but that’s not what happened,” said President Eugene Botsoe. Reasons against testing ranged from fear of missing work due to a positive result to feeling like testing and contact tracing was an invasion of privacy.

Besides concerns about privacy issues related to testing, COVID-19 tests are also not widely available across the country. Other business owners in areas with few COVID-19 cases don’t think the cost of testing employees is in their best interest.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t offered specifics on how frequently businesses should conduct COVID-19 tests. The agency has issued guidance that businesses should check the health of employees and customers daily, require social distancing and encourage the use of face masks by both workers and consumers.

There’s evidence to indicate that antibodies against the coronavirus may only last two to three months, according to a study published Thursday in Nature Medicine. Researchers in the Wanzhou District of China compared the antibody response of 37 asymptomatic people diagnosed with COVID-19 with that of 37 people who developed COVID-19 symptoms, CNBC reports. The researchers found people without symptoms had a weaker antibody response than those with symptoms. What’s more, antibodies levels were undetectable in 40% of asymptomatic people, compared with 12.9% of symptomatic people, the study found.

Retailers thus struggle with a truth outlined in an interview earlier this month with the Journal of the American Medical Association, where Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “When you look at the history of coronaviruses, the common coronaviruses that cause the common cold, the reports in the literature are that the durability of immunity that’s protective ranges from three to six months to almost always less than a year. That’s not a lot of durability and protection.”

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.