Google is urging everybody coming into the workplace to take weekly Covid exams through the Omicron surge
Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google is implementing a new Covid-19 testing policy for its US workplaces as it prepares for a continued spike in infections from the Omicron variant in the coming weeks.
In an email sent to full-time employees on Thursday and obtained by CNBC, Google’s health chief Karen DeSalvo said anyone who comes in contact with a Google office or facility will need a negative molecular test. They should also report their vaccination status and wear surgical masks in the office, the memo said.
“The Omicron variant has become the dominant strain in the United States of the time and is highly transmissible,” DeSalvo wrote. “Across the country, there is a significant increase in infections and hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients – reducing their capacity to care for others who need them.”
Google has been more aggressive than its tech peers lately when it comes to enforcing Covid-19 safety measures among workers. Last month, the company told employees they must comply with vaccination guidelines or face a drop in wages and eventually their jobs. That marked a shift from executives who just months earlier said the company would not mandate vaccines.
Several hundred Google employees have signed and circulated a manifesto against the company’s expanded Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
When it comes to testing, Google has braced itself for a moment like this. In April, Google began providing Cue Health Covid-19 tests to employees at home. It is the testing company’s largest private customer.
Four months later, Google’s cloud division entered into a separate agreement with Cue to develop real-time variant tracking and sequencing of Covid-19, a partnership that gives Google unique access to testing and variant data.
“We expect this to continue over the next few weeks,” DeSalvo wrote, adding that the new testing rule is temporary. “During this time of heightened risk, we’re making it a given to get a weekly molecular test (e.g. PCR, cue) when you come into the office.”
DeSalvo reminded employees that Google offers free home and on-site virus testing options to both full-time employees and its extended workforce, which includes temp workers, vendors and contractors. According to a recent report by Bloomberg, Google’s extended staff had longer waits for test results compared to full-time employees.
In an email to CNBC, a Google spokesperson said the company is implementing “new temporary health and safety measures for everyone who accesses our sites in the US” and is implementing policies to “keep workplaces and communities as safe as possible.” ” close.
DeSalvo said the molecular tests will help ease the pressure on clinics, schools and pharmacies that are struggling to stock antigen rapid test supplies.
Google has more than 150,000 full-time employees and almost the same number of contractors and vendors. In mid-December, executives said the company had opened 90% of its US offices so far, and in recent weeks nearly 40% of its US employees have moved to a facility at some point.
Google had expected its workforce to return to physical offices starting in January, but pushed back its plans last month, citing concerns about infection rates. Executives didn’t name Omicron at the time, though, and nonetheless encouraged employees to continue boarding “where conditions allow.”
The Supreme Court is going in the opposite direction
As Google ramps up its mandates, federal regulations appear to be going in the opposite direction. The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping vaccination or testing requirements for large private companies. The mandate required workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated weekly or present a negative Covid test to enter the workplace with a deadline of January 18.
Google executives have used the federal requirements as an explanation for enforcing their internal policies, arguing that the company’s extensive cooperation with the government means everyone must comply, regardless of whether they come into the office.
Google told employees in December that those who failed to comply with vaccination requirements by January 18 would be placed on “paid administrative leave” for 30 days. After that, they are placed on “unpaid leave” for up to six months, followed by termination.
DeSalvo’s note added more specific safety instructions in light of the Omicron wave.
She advised staff to use a fabric-free or “high quality surgical mask.” She also said they should stay home if they’re not feeling well, even if “it’s just allergies.” DeSalvo recommended employees take the test as close to the time of an event or office appearance as possible.
“You may not be showing symptoms, but you could still spread Covid-19 to others,” she wrote, adding that vaccinated staff should get their booster “as soon as possible” if they haven’t already.
CLOCK: Google employees will lose their salaries and eventually their jobs if they don’t comply with vaccination regulations