GHRA presents COVID-19 testing options for unvaccinated service industry workers

TUMON: Pleasure Island in the tourist district of Tumon is seen empty on Sept. 5. The president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association recently presented options for COVID-19 testing available to unvaccinated employees of certain businesses. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Unvaccinated employees of restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses where people congregate have three options for getting their weekly COVID-19 test, Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes said Thursday.

Rhodes presented via Zoom the three testing options in accordance with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's mandate that effective Sept. 27, staff of covered establishments such as restaurants, museums and theaters must show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Otherwise, the workers won't be allowed to enter their place of employment.

These are the same establishments that have also been required to check customers' vaccination status before allowing them to dine in their restaurant or enter a bar or theater.

The three weekly testing options for unvaccinated employees, according to Rhodes, are:

  • Going to the Department of Public Health and Social Services testing sites, such as the northern and southern regional community health centers and the old carnival ground at Tiyan, where the wait time to get tested varies from one to five hours depending on daily volume. The BinaxNOW antigen test and the PCR test are available on site, with up to 24-hour- and up to 48-hour notification of test results, respectively.
  • The employer's own testing sites, which are authorized to use only the BinaxNOW antigen test. Employers are required to have their selected staff undergo DPHSS training on how to conduct the tests, complete an N95 fit test certification, are subject to DPHSS inspections and are required to manage their records.
  • Sending the employees to the GHRA and American Medical Center testing site, where the BinaxNow 15-minute testing will be available as well as the machines for molecular tests with higher accuracy than the regular antigen test. There is a $25 fee that covers the administration of the test, labor cost, registration and the QR code.

Paid or unpaid time?

During a question-and-answer session, Rhodes was asked whether employers are required to pay an unvaccinated employee for the time that employee is getting their weekly testing.

That could mean up to five hours away from work to get tested at the Tiyan drive-thru testing site.

Rhodes said GHRA is still doing research on this and seeking counsel on it, and will update the membership.

Moreover, it would be up to the employer to pay the $25 administrative fee for a COVID-19 test at the GHRA/AMC testing site.

That fee is required to be paid at the testing site, or prepaid by the employer, Rhodes said.

Advantages of GHRA/AMC testing

Rhodes pitched the advantages of the third option, which is sending unvaccinated employees to the GHRA/AMC mass testing site.

For those who may be turned off by the long line at the DPHSS drive-thru testing, workers can go to private clinics, which she said could charge $50 to $60 for the test.

Rhodes said at the GHRA/AMC test site, there's only a $25 administrative fee, and the average time from pre-registration to the end, is about 23 minutes, Rhodes said.

If one tests positive, that person is given the molecular testing, also on-site, for an additional 15 to 30 minutes, which saves time and prevents further transmission.

Moreover, it's up to the employer whether they would pay the $25 administrative fee. If not, employees would have to pay for the weekly testing.

GHRA/AMC plans to hold a mass testing once or twice a week, and they need at least 1,000 people per clinic.

Rhodes said GHRA updated the survey questionnaires among its members and the general public on the impact of the mandatory vaccination order, and has called on businesses to participate in the survey. Some 169 companies have so far completed the survey.

Some surveyed businesses have full vaccination rates from 50% to as high as 98%. However, GHRA wants to know the actual number of employees that are not vaccinated and would need the weekly testing.

To date, the guidelines for medical or religious exemptions are still under DPHSS and Office of the Attorney General review.

Other rules

During the Q&A with the members, Rhodes said based on information from DPHSS, unvaccinated employees who previously tested positive for COVID-19 don't have to be tested weekly within 90 days of the positive test.

Moreover, any business that operates an employee dining area or cafeteria, such as construction firms and hotels, would be required to accept only fully vaccinated employees to dine in at the facility.

"If unvaccinated, they cannot dine in at the employee cafeteria or dining area," Rhodes said, citing information from DPHSS.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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