Contact tracing is nothing new. For decades, it’s been used to contain the spread of infectious diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, tuberculosis and other outbreaks, explains McKinsey.
It’s also a cost-effective alternative to blanket lockdowns, making it possible for communities to reopen safely.
That’s because contact tracing allows authorities to pinpoint, isolate and treat infected people while “allowing the vast majority of the population the freedom to conduct day-to-day activities,” explain researchers.
As you navigate the new normal and consider what the next several months will bring, it’s time to expand your role in keeping employees, customers, and your local community safe.
The role of employers
Let’s say one of your employees has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The Society for Human Resources Management advises employers to act quickly, identifying and notifying any coworkers who might have been exposed to contain the spread.
“You’ve got to nip [the spread of the infection] in the bud. If you don’t, it’s going to go through the workforce pretty quickly,” says Travis Vance, a labor and employee attorney, in an interview with SHRM.
Consider using real-time data to generate reports, advises Occupational Health & Safety. You can use relatively simple technology integrations to view a worker’s location history and keep real-time records of the people and places they’ve interacted with. [Here’s one way to do that.]
All things considered, technology can limit your employees’ exposure to risk, spur productivity, and accelerate your response to infections.
What about privacy?
Employers can ask employees if they have symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, reports SHRM. Still, you should limit the number of people within the organization who can access that info, and ensure data is stored securely. Additionally, never divulge the name of an infected employee to others beyond those conducting the investigation, advises the SHRM.
You should also be transparent about how you’ll use the information you’re collecting and have processes in place to maintain your employees’ privacy.
“Consent can be an integral part of the process for identification and enrollment,” say McKinsey researchers. “Organizations can indicate directly what data will be collected and how it will be used. Developing data-sharing guidelines, minimizing data collection, and anonymizing and encrypting data can all be done in order to support privacy rights.”
It’s worth noting that because we’re battling a local pandemic, privacy requirements have loosened somewhat, said Jena Valdetero, a privacy and data security attorney, to CNN Business.
You could leave contact tracing to chance or your local government, sure. Or you can take proactive steps to stop infection from overtaking your workforce.