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SoCal Health Officials To Employers: Stop Sending Employees To Get Free COVID Tests

A healthcare worker hands a patient a COVID-19 testing kit at a drive-thru testing site at The Forum. (Courtesy of the County of Los Angeles)
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Some Southern California employers are requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before allowing employees to return to work. Public health officials say employers should not be directing their employees to free, government-run COVID-19 testing sites, calling it a waste of limited test kits that should be reserved for sick people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County's health officer, told the Board of Supervisors earlier this week:

“Not only are employers not legally entitled to the results, but it is interfering with people getting back to work, reduces our available appointments and puts occupational health responsibilities on the county when we should be using those appointment slots for community surveillance."

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, said requiring proof of negativity isn’t effective, because an employee could become infected after the test takes place.

“There really isn’t a scientific basis for requiring proof of negativity prior to returning to work. And to the extent that it pushes out individuals who do have a need for testing then it really can do harm,” she said.

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This week, California shifted its testing strategy to focus on vulnerable patients and those with the highest risk of contracting the virus. Targeting testing could alleviate some of the supply chain shortages that have caused bottlenecks and forced patients to wait more than a week for results.

“Our obligation first and foremost is to meet the needs of those who need a test before those who want the test,” Ghaly said.


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