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The real reason your company might not do COVID testing: The cost

Few employers are testing their workers regularly, according to new research—and it’s not because tests are hard to come by.

The real reason your company might not do COVID testing: The cost
[Photo: iStock]
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Frequent testing is crucial to curbing the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who still have to go into their physical workplaces rather than work from home. But few employers are testing their workers regularly, according to new research—and it’s not because tests are hard to come by.

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The Arizona State University survey of 1,125 companies across 29 countries finds that only 17% of employers report testing their workers for COVID-19, blaming the high cost, the difficulties of testing, and accuracy issues.

However, companies are taking some steps to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission at their workplaces, the survey says. Nearly three-quarters of the employers saying that they require masks, and close to 80% say they make masks and hand sanitizer available.

Less than 10% say they have definite plans for future viral testing.

Why aren’t companies testing their workers? According to the survey, 28% say COVID-19 tests are too costly, 22% say they’re too complicated to implement, and 18% say they’re concerned about the test accuracy. Another 17% say they don’t believe testing will help reduce infection. Only 15% of employers say test availability was the reason why. (Employers were allowed to give multiple responses, so there may be some overlap in answers.)

The more employees a company has, the more likely it is to test workers. Of workplaces with 25 or fewer employees, only 8% say they’re testing workers, but 41% of businesses with 100 to 1,000 employees have testing in place.

Not all countries have the same attitudes toward workplace testing. When filtering the results by continent, 48% of the employers in Asia say they’re testing their workers, as are 25% of employers in Africa. In Europe, only 16% say they’re testing their employees, and in North America, the number drops to 14%.

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The U.S. has been among the hardest hit countries during this pandemic, though cases are surging worldwide. The survey noted that there were no differences between how the U.S. and non-U.S. companies were handling the pandemic, except one: In the U.S., only 37% of companies contact-trace their employees, while abroad, that figure jumps to 54%.

The ASU survey, conducted over six weeks in September and October, was developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.