If there is one thing everyone can agree upon about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is that it is constantly evolving. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen four prominent variants, which include Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron. The World Health Organization (WHO) names new coronavirus variants using the letters of the Greek alphabet, starting with the Alpha variant, which emerged in 2020. Here are some facts-in-brief about the different variants.
First appeared in Great Britain in November 2020 and infections surged in December of that year. It soon surfaced around the world and became the dominant variant in the U.S.
Eventually mutated into the B.1.1.7 lineage, which was 30 to 50% more contagious and was more likely to land infected people in the hospital and was deadlier than the original Alpha virus.
Vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson showed potential in preventing severe disease and hospitalizations in Alpha cases. It eventually faded away with the rise of the more aggressive Delta variant.
Also known as B.1.351, was identified in South Africa at the end of 2020 and spread to other countries. However, Beta was not common in the U.S.
The CDC said Beta was about 50% more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, and evidence suggested that it may have been more likely than other variants to lead to hospitalization and death.
Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson reported that compared to Alpha, each of their vaccines were less effective against Beta.
First identified in India in late 2020; it soon spread throughout the world, becoming the dominant version of COVID-19—until Omicron took its place in mid-December 2021.
It is estimated that Delta caused more than twice the infections as previous variants, and more severe disease than other variants in people who were not vaccinated.
All three vaccines in the U.S. were considered highly effective against severe illness, hospitalizations, and death from Delta.
The CDC recommended “layered prevention strategies” regardless of one’s vaccination status. People were advised to practice such strategies as washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing, especially indoors.
Omicron and it’s Subvariants
The first Omicron strain (BA.1) appeared in South Africa in late November 2021, and quickly spread to other countries. By December, Omicron was causing the number of cases daily in the U.S. to climb to over one million.
Omicron’s subvariants are highly contagious, with the BA.5 and BA.4 variants being better than other subvariants at evading protection provided by vaccines and previous infection.
Although Omicron was more transmissible than Delta, scientists are still trying to determine whether the BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants cause more severe disease than their predecessors.
The CDC says that while breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are expected, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with a booster shot is the best protection against Omicron.
This latest mutation of the Coronavirus is highly contagious, although the symptoms may be delayed or slightly less prevalent than previous strains. By the time an afflicted person shows signs and symptoms of infection, they may have already passed it along to other people in their proximity.
Stay informed and proactive by getting tested regularly.
The United States recently declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency (PHE). The announcement came during a briefing with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is highly important to understand what Monkeypox is so you can protect yourself.
The U.S. has confirmed more than 6,600 cases of monkeypox in 48 states. The PHE declaration by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is intended to help mobilize more resources to fight the outbreak and strengthen and accelerate the Biden administration’s response to monkeypox.
“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency.” – HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra
Overview of Monkeypox
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that monkeypox usually begins with symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. The incubation period from the time of infection to first showing symptoms is typically seven to 14 days, but this range can vary. Monkeypox can spread in a few ways. These include:
Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox
Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding or towels) and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox
Contact with respiratory secretions
Although the virus is transmissible, the CDC provides several steps to take care of yourself to prevent getting monkeypox:
Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
As the ongoing spread of monkeypox has been declared a PHE, federal officials have also expanded vaccination efforts. According to the HHS, over 600,000 doses of vaccines have been shipped to states and jurisdictions.
Public health agencies and officials continue to investigate monkeypox and learn more about its transmission and outbreak. In the meantime, individuals should continue to follow best practices for avoiding the transmission of monkeypox. Stay tuned for further updates.
In today’s world, having an excellent customer care team is crucial, otherwise clients and customers will find an alternative company to work with. Premier Lab Solutions is proud to offer world class customer service as one of the top priorities in the company.
Premier Lab Solutions defines its success as an industry leader via three pillars of support within the customer care team:
Round-the-clock availability and rapid response times – Customers value their time above all else. To combat long waits and correlating frustrations, Premier Lab Solutions offers patients support via phone lines, email, and walk-up visits 7 days a week. Bi-lingual representatives are also available to assist Spanish-speaking patients.
Validating customer feedback – Ongoing adaptability requires understanding customer needs as they happen, and at Premier Lab Solutions, customer feedback is very important. When customers are happy or compliment an aspect of service, employees forward the feedback to the rest of the team. Any negative feedback is analyzed by multiple departments and used as a tool to constantly improve lab services and future customer experience.
Customer self-service – In order to empower customers to help themselves, Premier Lab Solutions provides self-service tools through the web portal. From there, customers can instantly and automatically receive their testing results and keep track of prior testing for themselves and their families.
Premier Lab Solutions understands its customers and strives to meet expectations in a constantly shifting industry. The customer service team is an integral part of the company connecting patients to services in an effective, meaningful way. Learn more about Premier Lab Solutions by reaching out today. Our customer care specialists are ready to assist.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an ongoing concern for employers across industry lines. As new variants of the virus emerge, many employers are trying to navigate workplace laws and requirements regarding COVID-19 prevention while keeping employees safe. Here is a simple overview of the benefits and challenges employers face when paying for COVID-19 testing for their employees:
Benefits of Paying for Testing There are several reasons employers may want to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests for their employees. First, doing so can allow employers to perform the testing on-site and control the length of time their employees are off work to obtain testing.
It’s also important to note that it can be costly for employees to pay for testing. As such, employees who have to cover their own testing costs could eventually seek other employment to reduce their personal expenses. With this in mind, paying for COVID-19 testing may help employers better retain their workforce.
By paying for and providing testing within the workplace, employers can create fewer hassles for their employees. This way, when the tests are completed, they are read by employers, and employees don’t need to find a telehealth proctor or go to the doctor to be tested or confirm their test results.
Challenges With Paying for Testing To start, employers with a low percentage of vaccinated employees may face issues finding enough tests if all or most of these employees are completing testing regularly. In certain areas, there are shortages of COVID-19 tests.
In addition, testing costs may be high, depending on demand. If tests are hard to come by, their associated prices could increase, which could cause a financial burden for employers if they administer a large number of tests. This may pose significant strains on employers if they did not budget for testing, or worse—do not have the workforce to continue generating revenue.
Another issue employers may encounter from paying for and providing tests to employees is finding individuals to administer or witness these tests. This creates additional job tasks that must be filled by employees spending time away from their other responsibilities. Otherwise, if employers don’t have employees available to conduct tests, they may have to create entirely new positions to oversee the completion of tests and handle recordkeeping requirements.
Summary Ultimately, there are many factors employers must consider when it comes to paying for employee COVID-19 testing. To determine whether they should do so, employers should:
Weigh the pros and cons of paying for testing for their employees.
Refer to any applicable laws to determine what their requirements are.
Make the decision based on what will work best for their workplace.
When the success of your business depends on your laboratory and its testing capabilities, you should be very particular in the selection of your testing vendor. Here is a list of six questions you should ask to better uncover if your selected laboratory is a good fit for your business needs:
Are they CLIA accredited? Laboratory certifications are critical in ensuring a laboratory is operating at the highest standards. Verify laboratory information via the CDC CLIA Laboratory Search feature.
How much of the testing process does the laboratory conduct themselves and how much do they outsource? Laboratories that conduct testing in-house with no outside parties ensure better privacy and security of patient and administrator data. Premier Lab Solutions has an integrated solution that provides for in-house collections, courier, and testing, which results in an efficient, streamlined, secure process.
How responsive is the customer support team? Situations can change on a dime and it’s highly important to have a laboratory with friendly, round-the-clock customer service and support staff readily available. Premier Lab Solutions is a well-networked, medium-sized business that boasts the ability to be nimble and swiftly respond to customer and patient needs through live customer service agents available seven days a week.
How reputable is the laboratory and what other major providers have they partnered with? Laboratories that have partnered with city departments and government entities are a good way to assess their capabilities. Those kinds of partnerships can allude to their ability to process large orders swiftly and accurately, as well as adhere to contract guidelines and budgets. Ask your potential laboratory vendor for three or more references and probe for more information on how well the contracts were executed.
How rigid is the laboratory’s organization and its services? Laboratories that are willing to listen and adapt to the needs of the customer go a long way in providing the best service and a long-lasting working relationship. Ask questions about your potential laboratory’s services and willingness to modify their structure to meet your needs. In the past, Premier Lab Solutions has responded to client needs by extending lab hours, increasing courier services with more frequent routes, and building closer STAT labs to decrease turnaround time.
Are they affordable? Laboratories with government partnerships and company-wide efficient workflow allow for drastically reduced costs. City and State partnerships can often leverage government funding to supplement or subsidize the costs of testing, while in-house collections, courier, testing, and resulting reduce third party/outsourced costs. In combination, these kinds of laboratories have significantly lower overhead costs, meaning lower costs for your business.
Your business can be significantly impacted by your laboratory partnership. From drug testing to COVID-19 testing, your laboratory vendor should operate with the highest integrity and execute contracts flawlessly. For more information on how to find the best laboratory to partner with or for assistance with a current laboratory contract, reach out to us at Premier Lab Solutions.
Premier Lab Solutions offers reliable in network employee drug screening and confirmation testing along with personal service and support. We participate in laboratory proficiency testing to maintain the highest levels of quality and work closely with our sales representatives and laboratory staff to ensure we stay at the forefront of medicine.
Urine testing is an ideal situation for every testing reason including pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty and follow-up testing. Businesses rely on laboratory-based urine testing for its cost-effectiveness and capacity to screen for a wide variety of drug substances, both illicit and prescribed.
Premier Lab Solutions tests for the following drugs: alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, buprenorphine, cocaine, fentanyl, marijuana, MDMA (Ecstasy), methadone, opiates, oxycodone, and phencyclidine (PCP). Additionally, we offer validity testing such as creatinine, oxidants, pH and specific gravity for detection of specimen adulteration.
As with all laboratory-based drug testing, test results are logged into the Laboratory Information System (LIS) and reported to the client by a direct interface, web reporting, confidential fax or by printer.