Google is implementing a new COVID-19 testing policy for U.S. workers while the Omicron variant surges.
In a memo last week to employees, Google health chief Karen DeSalvo said that anyone who reports to a Google office or facility will require a negative molecular virus test. Employees must also report their vaccination status and sport surgical-grade masks while in the office.
In discussing the highly transmissible Omicron variant, DeSalvo wrote, "There has been a significant rise in infection across the country, and hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients – reducing their capacity to provide care to others who need it."
In December, Google executives told employees that they must comply with vaccine mandates or they would first lose pay and then their jobs. Initially, the company said it would not mandate vaccines.
In the fall, several hundred Google employees signed a memo opposing the company's vaccine mandate.
The testing rule is temporary, according to DeSalvo. "During this period of heightened risk, we are making it a matter of policy to get a weekly molecular test (e.g. PCR, Cue) if you are coming into the office."
The tests, Google believes, will help lessen the burden on testing sites, clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals that are currently overwhelmed with patients.
Google has more than 150,000 full time employees, and, as of mid-December, had opened 90% of its U.S. offices. Until recently, Google had been anticipating a full workforce return to the office in January. That date was pushed back due to increased concerns about infection rates.
Last week, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration's rule that would mandate vaccines for private companies with more than 100 employees. Executives at Google had been relying on the federal government's mandate to enforce its own internal policies. The ruling, however, does not appear to have swayed the minds of executives at massive tech company.