Guest Column: Here's How Businesses Can Make Sure their Employees Are Virus-Free

Dr. Joanne Weidhaas
Dr. Joanne Weidhaas, MD, PhD, MSM is the co-founder of Los Angeles-based molecular genetics company MiraDx, the founder of MiraKind.org, and currently a professor and vice-chair in the department of radiation oncology at UCLA.
Guest Column: Here's How Businesses Can Make Sure their Employees Are Virus-Free
Courtesy of MiraDx

As the states of California, Oregon and Washington begin strategizing on their regional plan to re-open their economies and control the future spread of COVID-19, a crucial question remains: How can businesses ensure their employees remain virus-free now and in the future?

For the thousands of western U.S. businesses seeking to safely bring their employees back to work, and tens of thousands of residents who desperately want and need to return to their jobs, a robust supply of COVID-19 tests, coupled with a systematic COVID-19 testing strategy supported by evidence-based guidelines will be key to success.


To date, the country has faced testing shortages, confusion about the various testing types, and lack of clarity around who should or can have access to tests. However, that does not mean we can't course-correct by thoughtfully laying the necessary roadmap for more transparent and effective testing guidelines as we look to reopen our economy.

The first step is a clear understanding of the current testing options available. The two predominant tests on the market are viral tests and serum antibody tests:

  • Viral, or PCR, tests determine if an individual currently has COVID-19 by testing for the virus itself through a swab of the nose or throat. These tests indicate whether the person is contagious to others, even if they are asymptomatic. Viral tests are complex and can require at least 24 hours to perform and report. The PCR test is considered the gold standard given its 90%+ accuracy rate and ability to detect even low levels of virus.
  • Antibody tests determine whether an individual has been infected with the virus and has developed an immune response (antibodies) against the virus. Antibody tests use a blood sample and can be processed relatively quickly, yet they will not identify people with an early infection, nor can they tell whether an individual is no longer shedding the virus and therefore *no longer contagious.

Both types of tests can be delivered as laboratory tests or point-of-care (POC) tests, the latter having the goal of quick turn-around and broad community delivery. However, none of the companies marketing POC tests have published accuracy data based on patient testing yet.

So where does that leave businesses looking to get their workforce back up and running? Businesses must establish protocols for appropriate testing of employees to confirm that they are virus-free before returning to work. Taking someone's temperature is NOT a valid proxy for determining whether an individual is "healthy" nor is an antibody test alone. Instead, we need to develop a clear decision tree that includes the two different types of testing.

Photo courtesy of Joanne Weidhaas

Companies should institute a multi-step COVID-19 testing protocol:

1) Any person who previously tested positive must receive a negative viral clearance test before returning to work.

2) Any person who has no confirmation of prior infection should receive a viral test first. If they are positive for the virus, they must be retested until they receive a negative result. If they are negative for the virus, they should then have an antibody test to determine whether they were previously infected.

If negative for virus and positive on the antibody test, they can also safely return to work. If negative for the virus and negative on the antibody test, they should know they are susceptible to infection if they return to work.

For those who are still susceptible, one option is to allow them back to work, but develop a prospective viral screening protocol. These screening tests could be on a volunteer and rotating basis through the workforce, with perhaps 10%-20% being tested each week. Anyone with symptoms also should be sent home and receive immediate viral testing.

The federal government should be taking action to coordinate testing supply, help direct it to the highest priority populations and subsidize the cost of testing. Business leaders should coordinate efforts to establish testing protocols and sharing of testing resources for the workforce that reflect the most current science to ensure that workers can safely return to, and stay at, work.

Viral testing is the only established method to confirm if an individual is virus-free and therefore safe to return to work. At MiraDx, we are conducting PCR testing for COVID-19 and are seeing many individuals continue to be contagious for weeks after their last symptoms. This is significantly longer than the current CDC guidelines that indicate that individuals are "clear" to return to work 72 hours after fevers and symptoms are gone. We are completing a larger study on this issue and will report results soon.

Dr. Joanne Weidhaas, MD, PhD, MSM is the co-founder of Los Angeles-based molecular genetics company MiraDx, the founder of MiraKind.org, and currently a professor and vice-chair in the department of radiation oncology at UCLA.

*This story has been corrected to say that if you are no longer shedding virus, you are no longer contagious. It previously and improperly said the opposite.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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