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Who’s In and Who’s Out under Workplace COVID Symptom Screening?

Abstract

COVID symptom screening, a new workplace practice, is likely to affect many millions of American workers in the coming months. Eleven states already require and federal guidance recommends frequent screening of employees for infection symptoms. This paper provides some of the first empirical work exploring the tradeoffs employers face in using daily symptom screening. First, we find that common symptom checkers will likely screen out up to 7 percent of workers each day, depending on the measure used. Second, we find that the measures used will matter for three reasons: many respondents report any given symptom, survey design affects responses, and demographic groups report symptoms at different rates, even absent fluctuations in likely COVID exposure. This last pattern can potentially lead to disparate impacts, and is important from an equity standpoint.