As the country reopens, the COVID-19 crisis will continue to impact your brand for the foreseeable future — sometimes in surprising ways you never considered. What would the impact on your business be if your patrons or staff test negative for COVID-19 as you try to re-establish operations — but it turns out they are actually positive?

A key study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers, can offer you insight and answers. Several crucial points that were cited in the study clearly define the importance of accurate testing, and specifically, how COVID false negatives tend to occur in real time. For example:

  • The researchers found that the chance of a false negative result — when a virus is not detected in a person who actually is, or recently has been, infected — is greater than 1 in 5. Often, the odds are a lot higher, too.
  • The chance of a false negative result drops from 100% on Day 1 of being infected to 67% on Day 4. The false negative rate decreased to 20% three days after symptoms show up. 38% of people showing symptoms actually test negative on the day they feel sick.
  • The chance of a false negative increases again a surprising three weeks AFTER exposure to COVID-19.

Clearly, false negatives can be problematic on many levels as you attempt to conduct normal business or reestablish your brand, especially in light of the highly contagious Delta variant. The good news: there are clear, proactive steps you can take to mitigate this issue. In the case of a false negative case, your goal is to emphasize safe business policies your employees are uniformly aware of, and crafting straightforward marketing messages for those who frequent your establishments or corporate headquarters. The following four steps can help you do this seamlessly.

Use the human touch.

What's the right approach when it comes to informing the public that an employee thought to be COVID-free is actually ill? Research from the University of Exeter found that people prefer contact tracing to be carried out via a combination of human interaction and apps. The most important thing to keep in mind is, yes, your customers may like the ease and speed of digital notification, but they also need to trust the knowledge you are giving them. It's important to be personable, plus take personal responsibility, so they understand exactly what their risk is in connection to contact with your worker. Reach out directly to those you know have patronized your business, be honest, and offer any further info or clarification you can.

Spell out your entrance policies in capital letters — literally!

Post clear, obvious signage outside your entrances that details your specific guidance for the patrons entering your building so there is no confusion. Are masks required? State it. Proof of vaccination? Let that be clearly understood. This approach lets the public know you take their safety, and the safety of your employees seriously. It has even more impact in the event you have an employee who has dealt with COVID-19.

Communicate testing and/or vaccination requirements for your employees in a clear way.

A new study from the University of Wyoming finds that explaining the benefits of getting the COVID vaccine to someone's personal health makes vaccination rates more likely to rise. If you are not mandating vaccination at your business, holding an informational seminar or sharing fact sheets that explain why the vaccine is safe can go a long way to convince your unvaccinated employees to get immunized, and help both themselves, their co-workers and your customers. After an employee experiences a false negative, you'll find many of your employees are more receptive to the data you present.

Reassure, reassure, reassure.

Tell your workers and customers that your absolute priority is keeping them safe. Let everyone know you are using current science to do this; work with local authorities and your board of health to stay up to date on current case rates, alerts and guidance. Reassurance builds trust--and trust allows everyone to do their very best work.