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Regularly testing employees is an important tool in the combat against the covid-19 pandemic at CSP

CSP has conducted over 2000 tests on employees to determine who is immune and look after those who are infected, not allowing the virus to circulate around the company

Little by little the economic activities that were shut down over the Covid-19 outbreak are starting to come back. However, at CSP the measures to combat coronavirus are still in place, with administrative personnel working from home (since March 20) and only the minimum number of staff required to keep operations running working on-site, in addition to more than 30 internal and external actions. One such action is testing employees regularly and at a growing number.

CSP did not close down, as it is authorized to operate because of its blast furnace, because it generates power for the national grid, and because it produces oxygen for hospitals by way of an outsourced company, White Martins. Therefore, a strategy to maintain a safe operation was worked out consisting of testing employees (something we’ve been doing since May 1), quarantining those infected, tracing the people they had close contact with, sanitizing areas where they have been in, and providing early treatment to people who show symptoms. All these efforts are based on the recommendations from the World Health Organization and were proven to work by countries that managed to get the disease under control, such as New Zealand, Portugal, and Germany.

About the subject of testing, we did an interview with Dr. Ricardo Galli, the manager of Health & Quality of Life at CSP. You can read it below.

Are all employees being tested?

Ricardo Galli –It’s important to understand what stages we’ve gone through. During the initial period, which began May 1, we were testing only those employees who were showing suspected Covid-19 symptoms and thus had been placed on medical leave and were being monitored. We also placed on leave people who belonged to a higher risk group or whose condition was more serious. This allowed for more accurate diagnosis, early treatment to prevent complications, and brought down the number of employees who were absent.

This June, we set about beginning the second stage: testing all of the production staff currently working on-site at the CSP mill. This will take place in cycles spaced every 10 days apart. Employees who test negative a first time will be tested again. By doing this we’ll manage to identify asymptomatic cases with an active virus infection, that is, cases that can still spread the disease to others. We will also be able to identify people who were infected and did not develop any symptoms. These are already immune and unable to spread the virus any longer. As of June 17 we did over 1,900 tests. It is the results of these tests that will inform our next steps.

What proportion of employees are immune, that is, that have already contracted Covid-19 and can’t spread the virus anymore?

Ricardo Galli – [As of June 17] there are more than 450 employees who we can say for certain are immune. In other words, they had the disease and are now cured. Some of them showed symptoms, underwent treatment, and have recovered fully. Most did not have any symptoms—what we call asymptomatic—and found out they were immune only after being tested.

What types of tests are being conducted at CSP?

Ricardo Galli – At CSP we are performing serology tests, which checks blood samples to identify two types of antibodies: IgM and IgG. Basically, this type of testing does not detect the virus. Rather, it can tell if a person has had or has not had contact with the virus, if this person was infected or not. However, the test is only meaningful if conducted a few days after contact, which is how long it takes for a person to produce enough antibodies to be found in the test (this is called a window period). For this reason, employees showing symptoms are only tested seven days after the symptoms first appear. That’s also the reason why we test the production staff in intervals of ten days.

How does the test process work?

Ricardo Galli – The tests are being conducted at the Occupational Health Center and at the areas themselves as a way to reduce the flow of employees around the mill. The Health area is announcing the dates and times for testing ahead of time. The first cycle occurred on June 1 through 9. Soon we’ll be announcing the date when the next cycle will take place. It will continue to focus on production employees who are coming to work at the mill and who tested negative in the first cycle.

From what has been established so far, people who already had the diseased are not at risk of contracting Covid-19 again. Does that mean these people can afford to ease off on preventive measures?

Ricardo Galli – No. While they themselves are not at risk of contracting the disease, these people can serve as vectors for spreading it to people who are susceptible. Therefore, they are still required to follow hygiene and social distancing recommendations and instructions.

In Ceará, the State Government announced a reduction because hospitalizations are needed. We’ve had some cases at CSP of employees who were hospitalized. What is the situation right now and how can testing help prevent further hospitalizations?

Ricardo Galli – We’ve had six cases of employees who had to be hospitalized for Covid-19. Some of them had to be admitted to the ICU and four required mechanical ventilators. Four have been discharged already and are recovering at home with their families. Currently, one employee is hospitalized in his apartment while another is at the ICU using a mechanical ventilator. Testing has allowed us to identify cases early. With this our physicians here at CSP are able to start treatment at once thus preventing the disease from progressing to a more serious stage.

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There are four different results for the tests being conducted at CSP:

1 – If both IgG and IgM are negative, this means no infection with Covid-19 happened and that person is still at risk of contamination.

 

2 – If both IgG and IgM are positive, this means infection did happen or is still happening. In such cases, employees are asymptomatic. They are cured and are no longer able to spread the disease. If they are showing any of the symptoms, they can still spread the virus and therefore must be put on medical leave and monitored by the medical staff.

 

3 – If IgG tests negative but IgM tests positive, that employee has an active virus infection. In these cases, employees are put on medical leave immediately and given all instructions for continuing treatment while quarantined at home. Moreover, we map out the employees who might have had contact with the infected employee recently.

 

4 – If IgG tests positive and IgM tests negative, that employee was infected with Covid-19 once and is now immune. That person will not spread the virus and is able to safely continue doing his or her job. Most of these cases are asymptomatic. This means these people contracted Covid-19 but did not display any symptoms.

 

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