covid-19 Test kit (Cryptographer/Shutterstock.com)

California faces challenges tracking COVID testing, vaccination data

California state agencies require employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. Verifying the vaccination status of workers is progressing, but most state-run workplaces have failed to test unvaccinated employees, the LA Times reported.

Overall, the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) said 66% of the state’s employees have provided proof they are vaccinated, but only half of 59,000 unvaccinated state employees were being tested as required during the first week of October.

At the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has about 3,600 unvaccinated workers, only 411 are being tested, and Cal Fire reported that it is testing just 75 of the 6,700 unvaccinated employees.

Some agencies failing to report vaccination rates or testing information at all.

Testing thousands of unvaccinated state workers is a massive undertaking and the effort has been slowed by supply test shortages, CalHR Director Eraina Ortega said.  Additionally, there is no hard deadline for when departments have to begin testing unvaccinated employees, she said, adding that 48 out of 152 state departments already have testing up and running at some or all of their locations.

To help agencies manage the testing and vaccination data, the major HR technology vendors have stepped up.

"All the big HR vendors have some capability with vaccine surveys and tracking, including ADP, Ceridian, Oracle, SAP and Workday," Sam Grinter, London-based senior principal analyst at Gartner, told SHRM.  "Most of these tools are not too technically sophisticated. In most cases, they have taken a surveying tool and reconfigured it to track vaccine status."

In July, ADP, for example, added a vaccine survey so employers could poll staff about their vaccine status. Now, workers can upload proof of vaccination and testing results for unvaccinated employees. Employees use a mobile app, but HR departments get information through a web-based interface, allowing them to use the reported data to make workplace decisions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to release an emergency temporary standard requiring companies with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination or weekly testing for their unvaccinated employees.

Federal agencies, however, have a little more leeway. According to the Sept. 13 update to the COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles, federal agencies “are no longer required to establish a screening testing program for employees or onsite contractor employees who are not fully vaccinated, although they may do so.” They are, however, required to “have a process in place for employee diagnostic testing after a workplace exposure.”

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.

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