Webinar: Practical Considerations for Reopening in a COVID-19 World

At a Glance

GZA’s EHS team recently hosted the webinar “Practical Considerations for Reopening in a COVID-19 World,” with a focus on the New York and New Jersey region. You can view the full webinar here. In the post-presentation Q&A session, we received some excellent questions that we didn’t have time to answer, so we’ve written out responses below. 

I have heard New York State offers a faster turnaround time (TAT), true or false?  

The turnaround time for test results depends on several factors and is somewhat state-independent.  For those in the healthcare space or those having medical procedures performed, the TAT is generally faster nationwide; on the order of 1-2 days.  For those that are symptomatic, the TAT 'can' be faster, but in many cases is still approaching 8-10 days at the moment.  For those that are asymptomatic, the TAT is generally 8-10 days, but in several cases GZA is aware of it has gone longer.  The main determining factor on TAT is whether one's sample is sent to a commercial lab (slower) or a state lab (faster).  
Would it pay to overnight mail samples?

The time a sample is in transit to a laboratory does increase TATs, so sending samples via overnight mail would likely speed TATs up.  There are specific shipping requirements for sending biological samples via overnight mail that would need to be investigated.
Can you expound on what people should do while awaiting test results?  Should they self-quarantine?  Self-isolate?  Is the approach different if the person is asymptomatic?

This is a complicated question, so general information is included here, but the specifics of each situation would determine the best approach.  Guidance should be sought for each specific scenario.  If someone has sought a COVID-19 test, it is likely they (or their company) feel like they've been potentially exposed to the virus.  Generally speaking, and because we know that asymptomatic individuals can transmit the virus, whether someone is showing symptoms or not should not be the main determining factor when deciding to self-quarantine or isolate.  Having said that, self-quarantine is generally advised for anyone who may have been potentially exposed, where isolation is generally reserved for those displaying symptoms.
Can face shields be used in lieu of face coverings?  If so, should the distance of social distancing be increased (i.e. more than 6 feet)?

While face shields serve to block some of the respirator droplets expelled by an individual when breathing/talking/singing/etc, they are not a suitable replacement for face coverings.  Face shields have large gaps on the bottom and sides, and this allows respiratory droplets to be deposited in the air surrounding the individual wearing the face shield. As air physically behaves like a fluid, imagine turning a garden water hose on and spraying the inside of a face shield.  The water would simply splash out of the bottom and sides and still be present in the space.  We know that respiratory droplets in indoor environments, particularly those with poor ventilation, can remain suspended in the air for several hours.  Face coverings, on the other hand, generally do not have gaps and conform fairly well to an individual's face, thereby containing many of the respiratory droplets expelled.

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