Minimizing Employee Absenteeism: Test-based clearance strategies to end isolation earlier and for moderate-risk settings

Minimizing Employee Absenteeism: Test-based clearance strategies to end isolation earlier and for moderate-risk settings

By: Melanie Smith R.N. BScN, Senior COVID Testing Implementation Manager, COVIDdetect, by DriverCheck

Contributor: Dr. Jonathan Davids, Corporate Chief Medical Director, COVIDdetect, by DriverCheck 

February 24, 2022

Current public health guidance is that individuals who display symptoms of COVID-19 are presumed to have COVID and are required to isolate immediately. A test-based approach can be utilized to end isolation earlier and return individual back to regular activities including work, minimizing employee absenteeism. For example, in Ontario, individuals displaying symptoms of COVID-19 can be cleared from isolation either by two consecutive negative rapid antigen tests separated by a minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 48 hours or three to five days apart. Irrespective of the serial testing strategy, individuals must be fever free and have their symptoms improving for a minimum of 24 hours (or 48 hours of gastrointestinal symptoms are involved) before discontinuing self-isolation and resuming regular activities. This means that an employee can possibly return to work quicker, resulting in cost savings and less disruption to productivity for the organization.

Similar approaches have been adopted in other provinces and territories.  Refer to your local health authorities’ guidelines to find out if this an option in your region. Following resumption of regular activities, individuals should continue to wear well-fitted mask/respirator and maintain a physical distance from others outside of their household wherever possible.

Rapid antigen tests can also be employed in moderate-risk settings (e.g., workplaces) in a “Test-to-Stay” approach1. With this approach, asymptomatic individuals who would normally be required to isolate at home are instead tested daily for the period of risk (5 or 10 days [dependent on vaccination status] from last exposure). With this approach, exposed individuals can remain at work provided they test negative, remain asymptomatic, and continue with masking and physical distancing. This strategy is beneficial in situations where there are critical staffing shortages or where highly specialized and critical roles impacted.

Rapid antigen tests continue to be a valuable resource to quickly identify and isolate those with COVID-19 infections and further the collective progress towards the end of the pandemic. Considering the recent findings, individuals and businesses are strongly recommended to adopt the updated rapid antigen testing strategies including the combined oral-nasal sampling method and serial testing where resources permit.


  1. Jüni, P., Baert, S., Corbeil, A., Johnstone, J., Patel, S. N., Bobos, P., … McGeer, A. (2022, February 10). Use of rapid antigen tests during the Omicron wave.