Google, BofA and other companies have secured tests to allow some employees into the office during Omicron, while others have opted out.
“Testing is key,” said Marc Benioff, co-CEO of Salesforce. “The reality is it is not risky to come together in the office if everyone is tested” [that day], And if everyone is tested, it’s not risky to come together in a meeting or off-site or at a company event or a customer event.”
The challenge is procuring such tests. As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket, many Americans have had difficulty obtaining rapid test kits or securing appointments for laboratory testing. Some people have waited a week to get PCR results amid the nationwide testing backlog.
High costs and lack of availability of tests have left many companies searching for alternatives, say executives and corporate health advisors. The Biden administration plans to begin distributing 500 million rapid tests for free to the public in the coming weeks, and on Thursday President Biden said he was instructing his administration to purchase an additional 500 million such tests. Private insurers will also have to cover the cost of over-the-counter COVID-19 tests starting Saturday.
Molson Coors Beverages Co.
Last month it told US employees it would voluntarily make attendance at its corporate and regional sales offices by the end of January because of a lack of at-home rapid tests. The brewer recalled its US corporate employees back to its offices in October. Molson now requires those employees to receive the Covid-19 booster shot.
Molson’s Chief People and Diversity Officer Dave Oswald wrote in a note to employees that “the nationwide shortage of at-home COVID-19 rapid test kits, especially amid the current national spike, presents new challenges and leaves us very little left.” gives a reasonable way forward in the short term.”
Several companies had planned stronger testing along with vaccination requirements as the centerpiece of strategies to bring workers closer together in the new year. Executives believed frequent testing could reduce virus transmission in the workplace, said Neil Mills, chief medical officer at insurance broker and consulting firm AON Plc, which advises large employers.
“Without that testing, now it’s a big piece of your dashboard that’s missing just how much COVID is in your workforce,” Dr Mills said. The thinking among many employers: “How can you expect employees to come back if you can’t do reliable testing?” Dr Mills said.
Some big-company executives say the federal government needs to work with states to set up more large-scale testing clinics, similar to mass vaccination sites. These executives say it would not be fair for businesses to compete with each other to procure testing supplies in the coming weeks, according to a person familiar with their thinking. The Biden administration’s vaccine or testing mandate, which has been challenged in courts but is set to go into full effect next month, requires unvaccinated workers at companies with 100 or more employees to test weekly.
The demand for testing in the corporate sector has given a boost to companies like Q Health. Inc.,
Used by Google and others. The company says its at-home molecular tests provide results in under 20 minutes; Q has said that it provides results with the same accuracy as a PCR test. Q’s chief executive Ayub Khattak said the company sells its reader, including 10 test cartridges, to consumers for about $950, although prices for companies will vary depending on order volume and other factors.
Mr Khattak said that the way employers use cue machines on a workplace basis, some manufacturers and other companies test employees on site, and some send them directly to employees’ homes.
“These organizations are trying what they can to help their employees and load the systems in which their employees are living,” he said.
Within Google, the cue machine has raised concerns among workers about unequal access to health care. Although full-time employees of Google can request the device at no cost, the company provides contractors and others with access to PCR tests, which must be mailed to a Google facility or performed on-site, according to an official of the Alphabet Workers Union. According to the statement, which was created during the pandemic to organize employees in the company.
A Google spokesperson said the company’s on-site Q testing program is also available to Google’s broader workforce at its data centers. “We have several options for at-home and in-person viral testing available to our employees and members of our expanded workforce, including temps and vendors,” she said in a statement.
Mr Benioff of Salesforce said he expects the company to have a large-scale in-house COVID testing tool soon. A Salesforce spokesperson declined to comment further on the device.
Mr Benioff said Salesforce currently uses antigen or PCR tests. He said employees will decide how they want to test if equipment is available in the home.
“Some people may not want to test through a device that is connected to a network, we agree; We think people should have a choice” when Salesforce rolls out the devices, he said. “We want to know that no one has the virus before they come into our program or our office, that’s all. “
Some companies, including Bank of America Corporation
, say they have been successful in securing a trial by buying early. The bank has on-site medical personnel at its office in New York to assist with testing, and has a supply of rapid antigen tests for use in its offices and other locations, such as bank branches. The company plans to test workers returning to its New York office in the coming weeks.
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in an interview that the company is doing a lot of testing to keep the workplace safe.
“We have all these employees, we want to make sure they feel comfortable working,” Mr. Moynihan said. “We believe that screening is important for what we do.”
—Emily Glazer and Jennifer Maloney contributed to this article.
Write Chip Cutter at [email protected]