Testing in the ‘now normal’
Eurofins discuss the ‘now normal’ with their extensive safety precautions, risk management, and COVID-19 testing for all members of staff and large events.
How we can keep gathering, and stay healthy in this and every other ‘now normal’ we will face?
Even a scientific testing company integral to the global fight against COVID-19 has experienced the uncertainty of in-person gatherings in the now normal. In April 2021, 94 Eurofins colleagues convened at a beautiful Orlando resort, where our events team implemented extensive safety precautions for each and every attendee:
- PCR test (upon entry)
- Antigen test (entry and exit)
- Contact tracers worn throughout event
- Meetings/dinners outdoors, except one rain instance (tripled social distancing space)
- Meetings situated one person per six-foot table, each six feet apart
- Masks worn indoors when not eating/drinking
- Sanitised mic between speakers (masked)
- Individually packaged food and beverages.
Our testing identified two infected participants—one who had contracted COVID-19 in July 2020 and was fully vaccinated. The other had received the first shot one week prior to the event, and tested negative to both testing protocols upon entry. However, their exit antigen test was positive, and a subsequent PCR test two days later confirmed that positive result.
We have learned hard lessons throughout the COVID-19 pandemic—most challenging is that virus patterns are unpredictable (as we’re seeing through variant complications and rising infection). However, human behaviour is very predictable. We are hardwired to connect, share, collaborate. We lean in close for important conversations and laugh loudly when we congregate, whether for business or pleasure.
Therefore, we’re in a far better place now, because we simply know more.
So how can we keep our events healthy and thriving at this and every new normal we’ll face, especially as COVID-19 variants, uneven vaccination rates, global travel, and other variables continue to create uncertainty?
More powerful than ever, antibody testing can provide data to drive value-based decision making. With a small blood sample and less than 24 hours, decision makers and attendees can assess population-wide antibody levels, whether from previous infection or vaccination.
PCR testing is still the most accurate method to detect active infection. However, as in our own Eurofins event, multiple layers can cut cost and provide additional lines of defence—antigen tests are best at detecting infection at high viral load, and signal that follow-up PCR testing is needed. Both are available pre-event, on-site, and post-event; and PCR testing is now widely available for self testing, with results in 15 minutes to 24 hours. Antigen testing provides results in 15 minutes.
For smaller events and where attendees can participate in separate cohorts, pooled PCR testing (grouped PCR testing) can test five to 24 people at once—a low-cost, reliable solution. As a result of Eurofins’ unique testing protocol, when a positive case is detected in a sample, no retesting is required—infected individual(s) are identified and reported within 48 hours.
Surface and indoor air testing are additional layers of protection, providing early warning of on-site infection and empowering staff to make agile decisions about space allocation, cleaning, and testing protocols, to ensure events continue to thrive.
In-person events play a critical role in just about every facet of modern life. We do have to stay vigilant, but we don’t have to stay home.