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Drug Testing Remote Employees

drug testing remote employees

With many companies electing to allow employees to work remotely during the pandemic, businesses are interested in the best methods of drug testing remote employees. Fortunately there are several options available for drug testing remote employees depending on your company’s specific situation.

Have Remote Employees Report to The Office for Drug Testing

The easiest method of drug testing remote employees is to have those employees come in for staff meetings or performance reviews on a regular basis. You can select employees to be randomly tested at their next meeting or call employees at random.

The primary benefit of having your employees report the office is that you do not have to change your drug testing regimen if you were drug testing on site before the pandemic.

One drawback is that once an employee has been made aware of their next appointment they can prepare to possibly be drug tested. Most people that use drugs are aware of drug testing procedures and they will be suspicious about any request to report to the office whether you mention a drug test or not.

If a company’s workforce is local to the business location and there is a skeleton staff still at the office this is by far the easiest, cheapest and most convenient option.

Since multiple employees will be entering your building you will need to escalate sterilization practices and institute procedures to safeguard everyone from viral infections.

 

wearing a mask in the office
Any contact between remote employees and employees at the office must be handled with care. Require masks and check everyone’s temperature that enters your place of business.

 

This will include measures like taking everyone’s temperature, mandating protective equipment, having everyone use hand sanitizer, keeping an appropriate distance between employees and possibly installing sneeze guards in rooms where an employee reporting for drug testing will interact with the employee administering the test.

Keep employees exposure limited with an efficient process and sterilizing areas that could possibly be infected between appointments.

Outsource Drug Testing to a Local Laboratory or Drug Testing Company

Another option that could work well if to temporarily outsource drug testing to a third party. Employees could be notified by phone and given a set time limit to report to the lab for testing.

Some benefits of outsourcing is that a company specializing in drug testing will have more experience administering drug tests. They may catch more people trying to cheat, they will be liable for any legal issues and it removes any question of an employee of your company showing favoritism to others.

The primary drawback of outsourcing your drug testing is the cost. It can cost 10x-100x more per employee for a drug testing company or lab to administer testing. In addition to the cost drug testing facilities are prone to corruption.

In March of this year a supervisor at a drug testing facility in Las Vegas was charged with accepting bribes from federal probationers in exchange for concealing their positive and missed drug tests. The employee, Billy Joe West, plead guilty in June. In December of 2018 a drug tester in Waldorf Maryland was charged with similar crimes after accepting a bribe during an undercover sting.

Corruption in drug testing companies is rarely investigated and employees are often paid low wages. If employees that have the responsibility of testing federal parolees are so easily coerced, how easy would it be to bribe an employee that is handling employment tests?

You can always switch back in an in house drug testing program after the pandemic subsides and it could be helpful to have this option as a backup for any future issues.

Test Patients During Telehealth Screenings

One of the more adaptive clinicians we have spoken with, George L. Swanberg, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner, and the Executive Director of Life Line Counseling Center in Warrenton Virginia, has developed a procedure for alcohol testing through Zoom meetings.

Using Alco-Screen strips and observing the patient closely he has them follow these instructions:

  1. In view of the camera the client rips open the packet, removes the strip, and shows me the beige end.
  2. Then, I watch him/her put it on the saliva laden tongue for about 30 sec. 
  3. Then they remove it and show it to the camera for about 30+ seconds. 

Very important: I then have them place a drop of alcohol hand sanitizer on the pad and show it to me. 

If it turns green I’ve not only tested the client but tested the veracity of the test so I know they did not defeat the enzyme process by sticking it in the microwave or through another method first. 

COVID restrictions have allowed practitioners leeway in how they handle screening. It is better to develop some sort of testing guidelines than to suspend testing entirely. It is up to clinicians to set their own precedents and develop their own procedures when operating under undocumented circumstances.

DNA Verified Samples

A technology that isn’t well known in the drug testing industry is using DNA verification for laboratory samples. This would be an interesting option for companies that have remote employees scattered across the country.

The company mails the employee their urine screen with directions and the employee provides the sample at their convenience and ships it to the laboratory. An express shipping option with signature confirmation is used to strengthen the chain of custody.

The laboratory uses a one time mouth swab in combination with a sealed urine cup and can match the urine sample to the employee that is supposed to be the donor. The gas chromatography confirmation techniques used would be adjusted to specifically look for any type of adulteration as well.

Gentox lab’s NextGenUDT product is one of many DNA confirmation products available in the United States. Gentox’s CEO claims that their DNA verification definitively authenticates samples, reveals mislabeling errors, and detects urine sample substitutions.

 

Verified DNA Drug Test
A DNA verified drug test comes with a mouth swab that will later be used to match the subject’s DNA to the DNA of the urine donor.

 

The major drawback to this type of testing is the cost. DNA verification in addition to even the most basic laboratory test drug test would be much more expensive than an internal drug testing program. However this is an elegant solution and for some companies the benefit will justify the cost.

The benefits are that a licensed lab will be conducting the most thorough lab testing available, it would be very convenient for your employees and it reduces the risk of adulteration through substitution.

Suspend Your Drug Testing Program for a Short Time

Federal regulatory agencies have given businesses more leeway with meeting their guidelines due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic. Many doctors offices have been allowed to schedule patients for telemedicine appointments and courts have even postponed trials.

You could contact your lawyer and ask about how a temporary suspension of your drug testing policy would affect your legal responsibilities. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has published guidelines for the unique considerations medical professionals are facing during this time.

Always consult a legal professional before taking any action that could affect your business’s adherence to your drug free workplace policy. You could be held liable down the road and even an act of God like a pandemic may not be a good enough excuse.

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Dispelling Coronavirus Covid 19 Myths

coronavirus blood sample

Coronavirus Covid-19 has been dominating headlines and social media posts for several weeks now, and as the cases ramp up in the US it will only get worse. People have 24/7 access to news media and instant updates from Facebook.

With the glut of information most people are starting to feel like an expert on coronavirus and epidemiology, but even some experts are putting out false or misleading information. I am admittedly not an expert on the coronavirus or epidemiology, but when Doctors and healthcare professionals are posting false claims on Facebook and giving interviews with completely false information, I believe anyone with a handle on the facts should address it.

I began following the coronavirus pandemic on about January 10th. As the owner of a commercial business that sources products from China it was relevant to our orders that were in progress and future inventory concerns. I watched as the coronavirus case number grew from a couple hundred to approximately 20,000 as the official Chinese New Year came to a close.

There were some disruptions with our contacts (for example FedEx stopped running temporarily) but the majority of closures and disruption was isolated to the Hubei province. It seemed that our governments were doing a decent job of stopping the spread of the virus to the US public, but I knew it was serious once the CDC issued a briefing that said disruption to daily life might be severe.

The Coronavirus has been spreading in the US for Months

This is completely false without a shred of credibility.

What The Spread Looked Like In China

Coronavirus likely began in late November in Wuhan China which is located in the Hubei province. Covid 19 spread around a local wet market at first, but there were only 54 confirmed cases worldwide on January 3rd 2020. It began to spread quickly and confirmed cases started piling up through the month of January with only a handful of international cases.

Coastal provinces in China are relatively unscathed compared to Hubei which at the time of this writing has roughly half the world’s Coronavirus deaths. The world was able to stave off the spread for a time, but once several European countries became infected it became clear that the US would be unable to prevent the spread to the general public.

Entering The United States

Among the first US citizens infected were residents of the Life Care Center nursing home in Washington state.  Roughly 30% of those infected died there, which is a clear indication of a dangerous and unseen virus.

The general public has no immunity to Coronavirus, so even though it is mild when contracted by healthy young adults it still uses the public as a vector to reach communities of elderly people with existing health conditions. If Coronavirus had been spreading through the US unchecked since November we would have a scene that closely resembles Italy or Hubei by now, with entire hospitals overrun and healthcare staff having to turn away the worst patients because they tax the resources to a higher extent.

Flattening the Curve

Since the spread of Coronavirus closely matches the official narrative, the US has had time to prepare and begin limiting contact with crowds which will slow the spread immensely. Our outbreak is more likely to resemble the coastal Chinese provinces than Italy because of these preparations.

 

Coronavirus Map
Johns Hopkins has been publishing an interactive GIS map showing confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries worldwide since early January.

 

It took a little over a month for 1 case to ramp up to 50 confirmed. Many more people were carrying and transmitting the virus and as healthcare officials caught up with testing and information distribution there were 2,000-4,000 new cases being reported daily during the second half of January in China.

The demand was so severe in Hubei the government built a new hospital in 10 days. None of this happened in the US; frankly it’s ludicrous to insist that Coronavirus had been spreading under the guise of the Flu in the US for 2 months, died down a little and is now spreading just as the CDC (who says there was less than 100 cases in the US until February) has predicted it would.

The healthcare apparatus in the US has its problems but we are especially equipped for identifying and reporting new diseases. With the level of transparency and existing checks and balances Covid 19 would have quickly been identified and reported up the chain of command in the US.

Holding Your Breath for 10 Seconds is a Way to Diagnose Coronavirus Without a Test

This is one of the more ridiculous claims floating around the Internet. It is included in a long post that claims to be taken from advice given by experts in Taiwan. The Taiwan Fact Check Center has already debunked this claim and many experts have come out calling it ridiculous with zero merit.

Drinking Water Will Wash The Virus Into Your Stomach

The Coronavirus has an elegant design like most viruses it targets and attacks proteins and other cells as a host. You can’t wash away coronavirus no more than you can wash away throat cancer. Staying hydrated does have a positive effect on your immune system, but there is no indication that drinking water does anything other than that in relation to Covid 19.

Coronavirus is No Big Deal, the Flu is Deadlier

Coronavirus has spread across the entire planet in a little over 3 months killing on average 3% of patients with confirmed cases. The Flu has a mortality rate of approximately 0.1%, or 30 times less than Covid 19.

It’s even more startling that in clusters where the infected are elderly the virus has a mortality rate between 15% and 30%.

It’s also more easily transmitted than the Flu. Scientists measure the ease of transmission with the basic reproduction number which indicates how many people a single infected individual will infect on average. The Flu’s value is R1.9, and initial estimates for Coronavirus Covid 19 put its mean value at R3.28.

Disease mortality and ease of transmission graph
This graph shows the estimated mortality and ease of transmission or Covid 19 compared to other known diseases.

 

The Coronavirus has quickly shown that it’s far worse than the flu as a public health crisis; in Italy Coronavirus patients quickly filled hospital beds and caused a paradigm change in the way Italian Doctors prescribe and handle care. Older patients that would use a lot of time and resources and may still die would usually be high priority, but in this new paradigm they are left to die so healthcare workers can distribute care to those most likely to benefit.

Children Cannot Catch Coronavirus or Do not Get Symptoms

While the overall data does seem to show children are less likely to die from Coronavirus, initial studies indicated that children are just as likely to contract the disease. Children have shown milder symptoms.

I would like to point out that a correlation isn’t always the product of a cause; initial cases were most likely contracted by adults traveling in the public and during the second round their children became infected but did not exhibit severe symptoms and were likely overlooked. The CDC recommends the same measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus in children that they do in adults.

Pets Cannot Catch or Transmit Coronavirus

Although the World Health Organization believes that animals are not a primary driver of transmission, a dog in Hong Kong tested positive twice.

Coronaviruses have a history of spreading between different species, which includes the genesis of Covid 19. Cats and Ferrets were shown to be asymptomatic hosts of SARS capable of infecting other cats in the same cage.

You should assume that your pets are just as susceptible to contracting coronavirus as your children and implement measures to protect them, but there is nothing out there to indicate that you should get rid of your pets. Experts recommend following basic hygiene guidelines and wash your hands before and after touching a pet.

How Long Will Protective Measures Last?

Some good news seems to be on the Horizon. China has declared victory over the Coronavirus and for the most part travel restrictions there are being lifted.

During the first 20 days of February I watched as the number of confirmed cases rose by 2,000-4,000 each day. Toward the end of February that number started to slow, and now new cases are around 100-200 each day. The number of cases in the US now roughly correlates to the number that China had at the end of January when the virus really started to spread. This could indicate that within 6-8 weeks we will have seen the worst of it and Coronavirus will be on the way out.

 

President Trump Coronavirus Speech
President Trump has addressed the nation daily regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic. Proposed measures range from travel restrictions to a full on 6 week mandatory quarantine for the entire country.

 

Of course a major goal in slowing the spread is to not overwhelm healthcare resources. We could see a protracted situation nationally that spreads out to 3-4 months. It’s also likely that summer weather will have a positive effect on transmission rates.

Either way I expect the US to return to business as usual somewhere between the end of April and the beginning of June.

 

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Can You Catch Coronavirus From a Package

USPS Delivery man

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic people have been worried about whether they can catch the virus from packages they received from China.

Can I catch Coronavirus from a Package That Originates in China?

The short answer is no. The conventional understanding was that Coronaviruses across the board could not live outside the body for more than a couple hours.  A recent federal study that was contributed to by a number of organizations found that Covid 19 specifically could remain viable on a stainless steel surface for 72 hours and on cardboard for 24 hours. Most packages come shipped in cardboard. The average shipping time for a package from China is 3 months total. During that time a full month is spent on a freight ship over the open ocean. The virus has no chance of surviving the trip.

Can I catch Coronavirus from the Mailman?

However now that Coronavirus Covid 19 has been spreading person to person within the United States, the surface of your packages could become contaminated by the carrier or the sender prior to shipment. If the shipment is longer than 24 hours it would have to be infected during the final day of transportation on the ground in your city. There is a real concern about mail carriers and other shipping company employees becoming sick and passing the disease onto others, but all major companies are adjusting their procedures to help protect both their employees and customers. For instance Drug Test City is only having one employee handle outgoing orders and they are screened for fever and symptoms daily. We are also treating packages with Lysol before they leave the warehouse.

 

Coronavirus cells under microscope
Coronavirus is named for the corona around the cell which acts as tentacles to attach each cell to target proteins.

 

You are far more likely to catch Coronavirus Covid-19 from a person you have made close contact with than from a package arriving in the mail, but if the package is sealed you can practically eliminate that risk by wearing gloves and treating your packages with spray Lysol and washing your hands. Wait 3-5 minutes after spraying before opening the package or handling without gloves and dispose of the gloves immediately.

I would suggest being cautious, but with proper sanitation and a simple disinfecting protocol you have nothing to worry about when it comes to the mail; you’re more likely to be infected by the mailman himself.

Tips for Dealing With Coronavirus Covid-19

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and hot water.
  • Hard non-porous surfaces such as stainless steel transmit over 70% of pathogens. Clean them often.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Maintain a distance of 3 meters or 9 feet from other people when possible.
  • Disinfect packages at the door. Lysol spray is effective against Coronavirus.
  • Hand sanitizer needs to contain more than 60% alcohol to be effective.
  • The mortality rate is much higher amongst the elderly with existing health problems.
  • All of the measures in place are as much to slow the spread and ease the burden on the healthcare system as they are to try and stop the spread.
  • It is believed Covid 19 will slow dramatically during the summer like Influenza. Scientists have already developed vaccines. This should be over in a year or two.