Cannabis Testing in the Time of COVID-19
2020 and COVID-19 brought about many changes in the cannabis industry. Thousands of small businesses closed by the end of 2020’s first quarter and millions of jobs were lost, but the cannabis industry was declared “essential”. Medical patients stockpiled their treatment and dispensaries struggled to keep product on the shelf. With a surging influx in test samples, MCR labs balanced increasing productivity to keep up with growing demand, while safely reducing the onsite workforce to 40% to maintain proper social distancing.
To mount an effective COVID response, a committee including executives and department representatives was formed, and met weekly to discuss COVID-19 policy, regulation changes and implementation of safety measures. Transparency and communication with staff was maintained, and a weekly “COVID-19 Situation Report” was emailed to all staff with resources for testing, public health education and updated company policies. The committee enacted operating procedures based on guidance from the CDC, including daily work-entry symptom/temperature checks, a no-fault stay at home policy, daily decontamination checklists, and weekly environmental swabbing as well as staff mask-testing for the presence of COVID-19 virus. All nonessential staff worked remotely, thus requiring the ability to remotely access machines and data. Essential staff were separated into unalterable shifts, and the lab space decontaminated between shift changes, to further prevent disease transmission.
The Human Resources department increased the workforce by over 35% in 2020, while also becoming HIPAA compliant contact tracers for any COVID-19 exposures or positives. An algorithm was created to react to any staff positive tests, exposures, or symptoms, and give consistent guidance for all required testing, length of self-isolation, and return to work permissions. With zero work-based COVID-19 transmissions in 2020 and vaccines finally being released to the public, MCR labs remains diligent in successfully protecting a growing workforce in an expanding industry.