Marc Hinson is the VP of People at Bartaco, a local ZHH favorite. Marc joins us to talk about the amazing work that they've done to achieve a 92% vaccination rate in their workforce, all while growing the business above pre-pandemic sales.
It’s tempting to try to quantify someone’s immunity levels through antibody tests, but unfortunately, the reality is that we just don’t know enough about what level of antibodies protects someone from getting or spreading COVID. We still aren’t able to say exactly what level of antibodies is protective, or how long that protection will last, so while taking an antibody test can be interesting, it’s still far too early to use that information to make any kind of medical or public health decision. In short, we don’t recommend requiring or paying for employees to get antibody tests since it won’t affect their requirements for vaccination or testing in any way.
Yes, we’re seeing Noro-like illness, flu, RSV, colds and even some E.coli and Hep A, too. These were all illnesses that were greatly reduced last fall and winter when we were social distancing, masking, washing our hands, and not working sick. We know staffing is challenging everywhere, but no one wants to be near anyone sick these days, for very good reason. We need to be sure we don’t let our guard down… especially since it’s nearly impossible to tell a cold from COVID without a COVID test.
A few early studies about rapid antigen testing showed that they were only about 40% sensitive, meaning up to 60% of negative results might be false negatives. But as we learn more about the virus, how it spreads, and when someone is shedding the most virus, most rapid antigen tests are closer to 80% sensitive. That still leaves about 1 in 5 positive cases missed, but it means that rapid antigen tests, which are quicker, cheaper, and easier to administer, are still an incredibly useful tool, especially for catching asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people before they come to work. Even though they give out some false negatives, rapid tests are incredibly accurate when it comes to positives - a positive result on a rapid test is more than 99% likely to be a true positive. PCR testing is still the more accurate of the two types, but it can take a day or two, which isn’t very helpful in preventing outbreaks if the person in question is going to work while they wait for their test results. There’s absolutely an important role for rapid tests in getting COVID positive people out of the workplace in a timely manner.
One of the most frustrating things about our pandemic response in the US has been the unreliability and variability in testing and results. Even tests from the same lab can look different if they’re accessed on patient portals versus email, or on mobile versus desktop. Tests can be divided into two main categories: point of care (POC), and laboratory. POC tests are done at or near the site where they’re collected, while laboratory tests are sent off to be processed in a lab. If a test was done at a lab, you can be fairly certain that it’s a molecular test with a higher sensitivity (meaning there’s a lower chance of a false negative). Rapid tests are always done on site and results come within 15 or 20 minutes, and come with a higher chance of false negatives.
When interpreting results, you’ll generally see “Positive” or “Detected” when there’s virus found in the sample, and “Negative” or “Not Detected” for when there isn’t. You may also “Abnormal” next to the Positive/Detected result. A really tricky part of COVID test results is that there’s almost always a reference range, sometimes also called an expected result, where it will say “not detected” or “negative.” This refers to the result that is ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ (AKA not having the virus). That can be sneaky since every result, even positive ones, have this reference range listed, which to the untrained eye can look a lot like the real result.