MANKATO — As some employees continue going to work during the pandemic, companies have had to find ways to check for COVID-19 and try to prevent outbreaks in the workplace.
As a team at Taylor Corp. was working on the company’s COVID-19 response and how to identify symptoms, they found studies showing the loss of smell can be a more reliable indicator of the novel coronavirus than a fever.
Taylor then teamed up with scientific experts to create products to test sense of smell. The olfactory tests called Scent Check are being used by Taylor employees working in the plant facilities and also went on the market late last year.
The test is intended to help organizations and the public mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by offering another way to identify a common symptom. The company is hosting a webinar Tuesday with Greater Mankato Growth to inform participants about the new employee screening process and how it can be used by businesses to identify who may have the virus.
The company came out with two products — one is a scratch-and-sniff card that is available on Amazon. It allows users to self-monitor whether they’ve lost their sense of smell by identifying a scent using a multiple-choice response.
The other product is sold in a higher volume and is geared toward organizations such as businesses and schools. It also uses a scratch-and-sniff card, but users can respond and identify the smell using an online survey that can be monitored by the organization.
“We are more interested in if people can smell and identify it,” said Jennifer Heimer, communications manager at Taylor.
While the product is still new, Heimer said local long-term care facilities and schools have expressed interest in it.
At Taylor, if an employee fails the scent check test, they are asked to stay home for the day, retake the test, and if still unable to smell the card the next day, then talk to a doctor.
The products are intended to help with early detection of the virus, said Taylor CEO Charles Whitaker. “The earlier you can try to detect it, the better off everyone is going to be.”
It is helpful for large manufacturers, he said, because employees do not need to be tested one at a time like when checking temperatures.
The idea for the scent cards came as Taylor’s director of safety and Heimer were determining how to check if employees coming to work had symptoms. While many places do temperature checks, a Mayo Clinic study found that the loss of scent is a more common symptom when someone has the virus than a high temperature; 95% of patients tested for a sudden loss of smell had the novel coronavirus, the study found.
“It’s the only symptom between COVID-19 and influenza that’s different,” Heimer said.
The company used public health guidelines and clinical research to create the products.
While the product is new to market, Whitaker said Taylor has three to four plants capable of manufacturing the product and can ramp up production.
“So it really got from what was a simple idea and became a pretty sophisticated product,” Whitaker said. “We’ll keep making them more and more accessible until eradication ultimately does occur.”