ITASCA, IL — On Wednesday, the National Safety Council and more than 50 partner organizations with employees at worksites across the country penned a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging the federal government to provide COVID-19 testing resources to employers with workers engaged in essential business services. While priority for virus testing will rightly be given to the healthcare sector, NSC and its partners implore the federal government to remember many workplaces are still operating.
With about 25 percent of people who have coronavirus being asymptomatic, workers could be at risk for contracting COVID-19 without realizing it, and workplace access to testing should be a priority as testing supplies become more abundant.
"We cannot flatten the curve without protecting our nation's workers, many of whom have continued reporting to traditional worksites in the midst of this global pandemic, unable to work remotely," said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "We must protect these workers, and one of the best ways to do so is by conducting more tests. As soon as tests are widely available, we expect that our nation's employers will have access to them."
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced workplaces across the U.S. to close or limit operations to protect public health and safety. As of April 1, 55 states and territories had some closures of non-essential businesses,1 and 28 states and territories have prohibited in-person workforces for non-essential businesses.2 However, states and territories have deemed some businesses and sectors as "essential," and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued guidance on the essential critical infrastructure workforce.3 Employees engaged in critical and essential business are required to be at a physical worksite in some proximity to other employees and/or customers.
As the group writes in its letter, "a lack of easily accessible COVID-19 testing means that some of our employees may unknowingly be coming to work and spreading the disease to their co-workers and the public."
For more information about the NSC response to COVID-19, please visit nsc.org/coronavirus.