In the midst of a pandemic how can we safely return to work?
This question is on the minds of employees, employers, and policymakers as the world begins the process of re-opening during COVID-19. Places that have successfully restricted person-to-person contact have also curbed transmission, but these restrictions come with damaging economic trade-offs.
To support decision making around relaxing restrictions and managing work environments as society reopens, an inter-sectoral group of industry, academic, and public sector partners including Genome BC and Genome Canada is leading a new 15-month, $1.2 million return-to-work study.
The data from the “SARS‐CoV‐2 Study for Eased Restrictions in British Columbia” (SAfER) project, collected in controlled settings, will be available in real time to help inform public health decisions that lead to positive outcomes.
The SAfER study will track and collect data over time on infection, immunity, contacts, and clinical symptoms for 1,500 volunteer employees at BC based biotechnology companies, including Xenon Pharmaceuticals, STEMCELL Technologies and Zymeworks. An employee survey will also collect information about stress and anxiety related to the pandemic.
“The SAfER study will track and collect anonymous data that will provide unique information about the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace and academic research settings,” says Dr. Pascal Spothelfer, President and CEO, Genome BC. “This is one of the first projects of its kind in Canada, and BC has a window of opportunity in which to learn and lead as we prepare to meet the coming challenges.”
The breadth of data types collected will also enable integrated data analyses that could reveal trends and predictive markers to inform workplace safety recommendations for COVID-19 and future pandemics.
The study will be managed by Emmes Canada and supported in testing and tracing partnerships by diagnostics company LifeLabs and app developer Thrive Health. The BC Centre for Disease Control will hold the data and perform the analyses.