3 Steps to Get Your Remote Crew Back to Work Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Are fast-shifting COVID-19 mandates gumming up logistics for your remote workforce? Industries from maritime and aviation to manufacturing and construction have had to react quickly to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Companies across the country are relying on general state guidance or finding their own way with return to work guidelines. Industries with remote and mobile workforces have a special challenge as they move bodies from city to city or port to port. What does your unique organization need to do to get back to work safely and sustainably? 

Step 1: Develop COVID-19 response procedures customized to your operations.

This is arguably the most daunting task of all. Luckily, Seattle-based medical risk management firm Discovery Health MD stayed ahead of the curve in the maritime industry as they helped cargo vessels calling on ports in China navigate the beginnings of the outbreak. Discovery Health MD and their team of doctors developed general procedural guidelines for numerous work environments. These documents are available for download and are intended to be a starting point for organizations in the maritime industry. Discovery Health MD is available for consulting and has helped organizations from transportation to craft brewing customize their procedures. 

Step 2: Coordinate COVID-19 testing procedures that comply with local mandates and protect your crew.

How is your organization’s home state handling testing and quarantine requirements? If your workforce is mobile, you need to have a handle on this information to protect your crew from infection and you from liability.

The state of Alaska recently enacted a mandate requiring all non-residents traveling to or through the state to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 PCR test administered within 72 hours of arrival to the state. Anyone who arrives who does not have the required documentation must pay $250 for a test at the airport and quarantine while awaiting results, which could take days. 

What if your crew doesn’t arrive through the airport? Should they be the ones to worry about making sure they’re tested if they’re arriving in a state to work for you? What about workers who need to be tested before reporting but already live in the state? It’s worth it to your team members to make sure they know exactly how and when they’ll be tested and who is paying for it before they arrive in any state with testing requirements. 

Step 3: Establish initial and ongoing fitness for duty protocols.

We now live in a world afflicted by a global pandemic. Now more than ever, fitness for duty protocols are necessary to keep your workforce safe, healthy and on the job. Industries that may have never had fitness for duty protocols may now find they need them. Determine your organization’s fitness for duty requirements with the help of medical doctors experienced in identifying risks in your workplace. 

Let Seattle-based medical risk management firm Discovery Health MD streamline your return-to-work procedures and protect your team. 

Seattle-Based Medical Risk Management Firm is Ready to Meet New Demand for Testing in Alaska

Discovery Health MD is prepared to help industries across Alaska meet new requirements for inbound non-resident travelers.

Seattle, WASH. (August 7, 2020) – At a July 28 press briefing, Governor Mike Dunleavy of Alaska announced that effective August 11, all non-residents must arrive with a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure. Additionally, testing will no longer be made available by the state of Alaska upon arrival. Now that testing is incumbent upon travelers, organizations across the travel and critical infrastructure industries can consider hiring medical risk management firm Discovery Health MD to assist customers and workers with compliance. 

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) – A frequent destination for Alaska-bound flights. A negative PCR test is required for travelers to arrive with, taken 72 hours before departure.

“We have extensive experience testing within the Alaska state mandates,” says Dr. Ann Jarris, founder and CEO of Discovery Health MD. “Our processes have been vetted by the state of Alaska. When it comes to getting your negative PCR test to travel through the state, we are the leaders.” 

Discovery Health MD is a medical risk management and consultancy firm that offers the comprehensive chain of services necessary to perform COVID-19 PCR testing across a large group of people. They provide the medical doctors necessary to order and interpret the proper tests, as well as collection services tailored to suit an organization’s unique operational circumstances. 

Fisherman’s Terminal Dedicated Testing Site (May, 2020) – Discovery Health MD led COVID-19 response for the Maritime Industry in Washington State. (Photo Credit: Russ Read Photography)

Most importantly, Discovery Health MD generates the negative results letter travelers are required to present upon arrival to Alaska. Travelers can access their letters quickly and easily on a secure, mobile-friendly web portal. 

(From Left to Right) Erin Graham, Discovery Health MD COO; Dr. Ann Jarris, Discovery Health MD CEO

“We understand how to make sure you’re going to comply with the mandates,” says Dr. Jarris. She and her team have been at the forefront of the pandemic response in the maritime industry. Their team of doctors, experts and administrators developed general procedural guidelines for transmission management that can be applied across industries and tailored very specifically to numerous organizations and circumstances. They work tirelessly to keep those guidelines up to date as the science and societal circumstances around COVID-19 evolves, and they are actively adapting their services to suit industries of all kinds. 

Discovery Health MD is ready to help your organization meet the changing demands of the pandemic response. To inquire about their consulting and management services, contact Dr. Jarris at 206-351-0693 or [email protected].

If your company is sending workers to Alaska, check out Test-to-Fly by Discovery Health MD to send your employees with confidence.

Discovery Health MD is a Seattle-based medical risk management and consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations mitigate medical risk among large mobile and remote workforces. They have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. They leverage the expertise of a seasoned team of medical doctors and close ties with local academic institutions to streamline back-to-work protocols and testing options for the maritime industry and beyond.

How Our Maritime Clients Are Getting Back To Work During COVID-19

It is hard to believe that we’re almost in the summer of 2020.
Everyone is feeling the toll of uncertainty and the cumulative effects of ongoing stress from the last few months.

Our clients in the maritime industry have done an excellent job in responding to the recent challenges, and the team at Discovery Health MD is proud of our ongoing collaborative efforts and the results we’ve achieved together.

So what is actually working?

A 14-day fitness-for-duty observation period is the best tool we have for keeping a vessel COVID-19 free. You may have heard this referred to as a “quarantine” period.

The Goal:

To assess for the development of fever or symptoms.

The Outcome:

An employee who develops fever or symptoms during the observation period should not proceed to travel based on a negative test alone.
The employee should instead…

  • be removed from the fitness for duty assessment
  • be encouraged to seek medical care, and
  • if appropriate, enter a return to work strategy based on a testing or time-based strategy.

We have validated a risk reduction strategy for high-risk “Closed System” environments.

We recommend the following risk-reduction strategy for:

  • Operations that allow for a period of observation before reporting to work
  • Workforces that operate in medically-austere environments, where introducing disease to local communities would be catastrophic or where the nature of the worksite would make stopping the spread of disease difficult

Process for Closed Systems

  1. All employees undergo a 14-day period of observation before reporting for work, at home or in a supervised setting. Preventing further potential exposure to the virus and observing for the development of fever or symptoms is the goal.
  2. The 14-day period includes testing for the virus with a highly-accurate validated test. PCR nasal swabs are an example of such a test. Testing could occur once, twice, or three times during this period. The role of antibody testing is not known at this time. If antibody testing is incorporated into a fitness for duty program, seek guidance which types of tests are appropriate. Fingerstick antibody tests are not recommended at this time.
  3. The employee reports to work with ongoing twice daily symptom and temperature monitoring at the end of the observation and testing period, if…
    1. the employee does not develop fever or symptoms
    2. the employee has negative PCR tests

“Aleutian Spray Fisheries and some other fishing companies have hired Discovery Health MD, a Seattle-based firm with long involvement with the maritime fleet, to conduct two rounds of shore-side screening  at the beginning and end of quarantines. The protocol administers swab tests that identify active cases of COVID-19 as well as antibody tests that may indicate if a person previously was exposed to the virus that causes the disease.”

Trawl fishing in the age of the coronavirus: First, you make it through quarantine – The Seattle Times

The Results

Over the past month we have found a 2% PCR positive rate at the beginning of the observation period, with a 2.5% PCR positive rate at the end.
All these cases claimed to be asymptomatic.

Serology Tests

We obtained Venous IgG serology tests at the beginning and end of the observation period. Our theory was that a trend from negative to positive could identify a subacute, but still infectious case. Only one out of about 1000 tests demonstrated this pattern.
The utility of serologic tests in the fitness for duty process is still undefined.

PCR Tests

Of almost 20% of the employees who participated in this process, surveillance testing demonstrated all negative PCR tests at 2-3 weeks after completion of the isolation and testing period.
Based on our data, we now believe that the above process offers the greatest risk reduction for high-risk Closed Systems.

What About Ongoing Testing?

There is not yet a defined role for surveillance testing of asymptomatic workers.

There is Still More To Learn

So much is still unknown about COVID-19, and there’s much uncertainty around how to safely return people to work. We have, however, made great strides in our understanding of the importance of a 14-day observation period to identify symptomatic workers, and testing to identify asymptomatic but infectious workers.
The lessons we’ve learned while devising closed-system fitness-for-duty algorithms may apply to open systems as well, with some modifications.

Discovery Health MD and our partners continue to find solutions for these challenges in the Maritime Industry and beyond.

We look forward to working with you to keep your crews & employees safe and healthy.