WI Covid Test Surveys; EEOC Ruling On Anti-Body Testing

on June 22, 2020 in ABR Blog, HR and Workforce Tips


Wisconsin to Conduct 2 Covid Test Surveys

Two population health studies in Wisconsin are being launched to better understand where COVID-19 is in the state, identify communities at risk for a future outbreak and help prevent the spread of the virus, the WI Department of Health Services announced June 17th, 2020.

The first study (led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Survey of the Health of Wisconsin – SHOW) will determine the prevalence of people who have COVID-19 antibodies. The presence of antibodies indicates that a person had COVID-19 in the past, perhaps without realizing it.

People who have participated in past SHOW research will be chosen from 10 randomly selected counties and the city of Milwaukee to form a representative state sample, said the group’s director, Kristen Malecki.

Workplace Antibody Tests Can’t Be Required, EEOC Says

On June 17, 2020, the Bloomberg Law Daily Labor Report® also reported Federal disability law doesn’t allow employers at this time to require Covid-19 antibody testing before employees return to work.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this latest guidance falls in line with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had said the tests shouldn’t be used to “make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” The presence of antibodies in a test can’t be equated with a worker’s immunity from Covid-19, the CDC guidance said.

The EEOC has, however, allowed employers to test workers for Covid-19 under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employer requires a mandatory medical evaluation of an employee, the ADA says it must be “job related and consistent with business necessity.” The EEOC has said that because an individual suffering from the virus poses a “direct threat” to the health of others in a workplace, Covid-19 tests meet that requirement under the ADA.

The EEOC went on to say, “Please note that an antibody test is different from a test to determine if someone has an active case of COVID-19 (i.e., a viral test).” The agency said it “could update this discussion in response to changes in CDC’s recommendations.”

Second WI Covid Test Surveys to Track COVID-19

The second study will test samples from wastewater treatment facilities, in both urban and rural areas, to determine the current concentration levels of virus genetic material found in sewage.

The water testing can help health officials identify where and to what extent COVID-19 is circulating within a community and can help them minimize its transmission, the state health department said.

The survey is designed to help communities deal with potential surges in cases, not to replace existing public health surveillance, said Dr. Jonathan Meiman, chief medical officer for the state health department’s Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health.

The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene is partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on that study.

Content resources: Associated Press Wire Service, June 17, 2020 and Bloomberg Law Daily Labor Report, June 17, 2020