This story is the second in a series to look at the impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant on the construction industry. Click here for part one.
Ezra Laniado is fighting the pandemic on his construction sites, one COVID-19 test after another.
“Building is a fusion of work and material,” said Laniado. “Dealing with the material was difficult enough, but when someone gets sick and suddenly the entire crew that came into contact with them is now in quarantine, it becomes very difficult.”
As the owner of Landmark Construction Crew, a Los Angeles-based commercial contractor, he learned early that it means anyone who gets sick stays away and then gets tested immediately to keep their teams going.
“They can’t come to work and they have to do a COVID test before coming back, that’s for sure,” Laniado explained.
Given the national surge in COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks due to the highly contagious Delta variant, contractors and health workers in the workplace have recommended a three-pronged approach of masks, social distancing on construction sites, and most importantly, increased testing. especially for workers who have not been vaccinated.
Unlike when the pandemic began, however, the contractors surveyed for this article found that the widespread availability of tests and the fast turnaround times for results have dramatically increased their effectiveness in preventing spread to construction sites.
“Tests are one of the most basic things we can do to contain the spread,” said Dr. Brian Cruz, Regional Medical Director for PhysicianOne Urgent Care, based in Connecticut, who advises employers on workplace health issues. “It enables you to isolate those who are positive and remove them from the workplace.”
He also noted that while vaccinated people who were exposed but exhibiting no symptoms should wear masks and get tested three to five days after the incident, they do not need to be quarantined unless they are get a positive result.
Types of tests
Today’s tests come in two main forms: rapid antigen tests, which look for specific proteins on the surface of the virus, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which detect genetic material in the virus at the molecular level.
Cruz said PCR testing was still “the gold standard” for accuracy, but noted that rapid antigen testing can be up to 90% accurate when symptoms are present. However, they are less reliable in detecting asymptomatic cases.
Turnaround times for results have also improved since the pandemic began, which has helped encourage workers to get tested, both for their own peace of mind and for getting back to work.
“Only one person goes home by the time we get the notification, which is usually the same day,” said Sheri Dizon, CFO of Landmark Builders, based in San Jose, Calif., Which is not affiliated with Laniado’s company. “You don’t have to send the whole world home if they test positive.”
She noted that because the tests are so quick, workers generally voluntarily stay away from work when they feel sick. “Most people are pretty good now. If they don’t feel good, they don’t come to work. And if they think they have it, they get tested,” Dizon said.
She also said that her company’s workers and subs did a good job of self-monitoring to prevent the workplace spread. For example, Landmark Safe launched Site Check In, a site screening app that asks workers before they go to the construction site about current symptoms and whether they have had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The app can also be customized to ask about vaccination status.
After the employees have been successfully screened, they will be given color-coded wristbands that change on a daily basis.
“If they see someone who doesn’t have a bracelet, we’ll get a call to check,” Dizon said. “The submarines are monitoring it for us.”
Peace of mind
Peacock Construction, based in Milpitas, Calif., Used a combination of construction site screening and testing to create a record of zero workplace infections.
“We have at least survived this first part of the pandemic with no transmissions on the construction site,” said Kyle Peacock, CEO. “We had a few cases on site, but we were able to identify them, isolate them and then contact them from there.”
Peacock has partnered with a local laboratory and is sending all workers who show symptoms or not feeling well to be tested immediately with results the same day.
“We’ve been sending people there with all kinds of suspicions to make sure we don’t have a problem,” said Kyle Peacock, CEO. “It takes 30 minutes. A lot of people just wait in the parking lot.”
The fee for this is $ 150 per test, but as the country goes into the second fall of the pandemic with the rising Delta variant, that’s a low price, Peacock said.
“That sounds like a lot, but considering if there is an exposure event and you have to shut down a job or your office, it’s cheap,” Peacock said.