Last updated: December 4, 2023
Most of us shy away from someone who is exhibiting signs of illness in a public place—a nasty cough can certainly be an obvious sign. It makes perfect sense because no one wants to risk catching a virus.
And in our quickly changing world, today that risk includes COVID-19.
We recently had a case in which someone was scheduled for a random urine drug test and while waiting their turn, they heard the person in the restroom ahead of them coughing. They admitted concern about the “what if” factor that’s involved and refused to use the restroom for their drug test.
COVID-19 is highly contagious.
However, the DOT has not changed any regulations that pertain to drug testing at this time. In fact, they’ve stated that they have to test.
That said, it raises a red flag that an employee refuses to take a drug test by reasoning that someone is exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus, but they are obviously willing to be at work with these same individuals.
How should you handle it?
We’ve determined that the best way to avoid this scenario is for the collector to turn away the individual who is exhibiting the symptoms.
The collector can simply state that they don’t feel it’s appropriate to test the person at this time. Suggest that the employee go and speak to their supervisor as to what they should do next and then continue testing with everyone else.
Regardless of whether it was the technician or the test subject who refused the test, the instance should be well documented. Then, it will be up to the MRO, DER, or—in the case of non-DOT regulated employers—the person in charge of drug testing at the company to make the final decision as to whether it was a refusal to test or not.
In the case of the DOT-regulated employer, it would first be determined if the person was refusing to test. If that wasn’t the final decision, they would make arrangements to get that employee tested somewhere that they feel comfortable.
A change in procedure
For those employers not held to mandated drug testing procedures, our advice is that your company may want to consider a policy update from this point on.
Clearly state that if someone refuses a test that in any way pertains to a current health concern—as in a pandemic situation—the employee agrees that the employer has a right to randomly test that employee at some point in the future.
It’s entirely possible that the person is using the current health concern as a way to cover their usage and avoid testing. A policy update will give you the right to have the employee randomly tested at your discretion once the health concern passes.
This change alleviates the possibility of your company being accused of singling someone out.
In the instance of a DOT employee who refused to test, adding this policy change to company policy allows you to administer a non-DOT test at another point in time.
We’ll state again that this solution nulls and voids the argument that you don’t want to take a test with the same people that you were just working with.
If someone has been exposed to the coronavirus, they will typically exhibit symptoms between 2-14 days after exposure.
The symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
According to the CDC, the virus spreads through person-to-person transmission. This most commonly happens during close exposure to a person who is infected. Respiratory droplets are produced when the infected person coughs or sneezes. If you are in close proximity, it’s possible that these droplets can land in the mouths, noses, or eyes of anyone standing nearby. It’s also possible to inhale the droplets.
It was first reported that it was unlikely that anyone would contract the virus due to airborne transmission over long distances because it didn’t remain in the air. However, information reported March 18th by The New England Journal of Medicine now states that the virus remains airborne for up to three hours. However, it’s still unclear if a person can actually become infected by breathing in the virus from the air.
Moreover, it’s possible for the virus to live on copper surfaces for up to 4 hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic or stainless steel for up to 72 hours.
How do you kill this thing?
Regularly disinfecting surfaces is the best way to avoid the spread of the disease by surface exposure. Therefore, places that are still conducting business are regularly disinfecting surfaces.
Disinfectants with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) inactivate coronaviruses within a minute according to the NEJM’s article. However, the article noted that it is not set in stone as of yet because it’s a new strain of the coronavirus.
For now, we’ll trust that is the case.
Scientists worldwide are working around the clock to learn more about how the coronavirus works. If new facts emerge, they will be made known immediately.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that you can use a homemade disinfecting solution made of a combination of at least 70% alcohol. Another option is adding 5 tablespoons (one-third cup) of household bleach to a gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.
Due diligence is key
It’s also important to maintain social distancing.
Are the waiting room chairs still crammed together arm to arm? Probably not because the CDC recommends maintaining a distance of six feet from each other.
Of course, during the test, the administrator must be in close proximity to the test subject. However, drug testing companies are prepared for this and supply technicians with the appropriate gear to protect both themselves and your employees.
Squelching a rumor
Over the past few days, a rumor has surfaced on the internet that during this outbreak, the DOT is not conducting drug testing.
That’s not true.
The trucking industry is vital to our nation right now, perhaps more than ever before. The industry is keeping shelves restocked with food and supplies. It’s transporting masks, tests, and other necessary equipment to our medical personnel.
In times of high anxiety, a person who uses drugs or alcohol is likely to rely on them as a way of coping with the situation. It’s important that the DOT carries on with scheduled drug testing to ensure safety on the roadways.
If you see the rumor posted on social media, add a comment letting the poster know that they are spreading false information. Furthermore, ask them to remove the post.
Even though we’re in the midst of unchartered territory, we’ll make it through this turbulent time in our nation’s history.
Let’s band together and come out stronger on the other side.