Enterprise contact tracing with solutions like Care360 differentiates between definite and probable SARS-CoV-2 exposures. California lawmakers believe that everyone has a right to know if they were exposed to COVID-19 on a worksite.
There is no shortage of confusion today regarding contact tracing for COVID-19 prevention. On September 17, 2020, California signed AB 685, new legislation expanding Cal/OSHA’s authority to issue Orders Prohibiting Use (OPU) for workplaces that don’t notify employees (and others) of COVID-19 incidence on a worksite. As it turns out, these concepts are interrelated and can augment each other’s effectiveness towards their common goal.
Contact tracing is the act of discovering and notifying those who may have been exposed to an infectious disease with the intent of stopping further transmission. With a simple understanding of exponential growth (or compounding interest), one can imagine how preventing the spread from even one person/case is of significant impact on the pandemic.
AB 685 was drafted with a similar goal in mind. California lawmakers believe that everyone has a right to know if they were definitely or potentially exposed to SARS-CoV-2 on a worksite. The difference between definite and potential exposure is an important one while discussing AB 685 and contact tracing, and we will revisit this a little later in the article. AB 685 mandates that employers with a California worksite (office, store, agricultural) who learn about an infectious individual on-premise must notify their employees, employers of subcontracted employees, and employee representatives, including unions and sometimes attorneys who may represent employees, within one business day of potential exposure. We know now from various studies that even within the infectious period of SARS-CoV-2 (2 days before and 10 days after symptom onset) viral shedding decreases significantly over time. This, I believe, is the basis for the one business day requirement so as to maximize prevention through quarantine interventions.
Prior to connecting the dots between contact tracing and AB 685, it's important to clarify one more topic: the difference between public and enterprise contact tracing solutions. While discussion about the Google Apple contact tracing API dominates our newsfeeds, it’s known to few that enterprise contact tracing solutions like Care360 are not the same as their public health counterparts built using those ‘free’ resources. While there are a lot of differences between the two options, the one that is most pertinent to this discussion is the absence of enterprise analytics and notifications in the apps built using the Google Apple contact tracing API. In short, enterprise contact tracing solutions allow managers and HR to invite team members who can then be notified anonymously or in an identifiable manner in the case of an exposure. We will cover these differences in depth in another blog post.
Coming back to the connection between contact tracing and AB 685, let’s revisit the concepts of definite vs. potential exposure. CDC guidelines define an unsafe interaction, aka a definite exposure, as being exposed to an infectious individual for a period of 15 minutes at a distance of fewer than 6 feet. WHO does the same but at a distance of 1 Meter (3.3 feet). As per AB 685, employers have to trigger their notifications to EVERYONE on a worksite, if an infectious person is reported. This means that they have to notify everyone of potential exposure even if they never had an unsafe interaction (definite exposure) with the infectious individual. This is exactly where automatic contact tracing with Care360 and CareBadges adds tremendous value.
With the help of anonymized contact tracing data, employers can distinguish between definite and potential exposures, hence customizing the notifications to the two groups and their representatives. For example, those with potential exposures also have the right to know if they had unsafe interactions or not. Such a bifurcated strategy for AB 685 notifications will reduce workforce anxiety and build trust in employers’ COVID mitigation and safe reopening strategy.