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State orders COVID-19 testing for agricultural and food processing workers

The Detroit News

Michigan officials have issued new emergency orders requiring COVID-19 testing for agricultural and food processing employees.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services cited 11 outbreaks at farms and food processing plants in Michigan. 

“The men and women who work in our fields and food processing plants are at particular risk for COVID-19, and they need and deserve protection,” said Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Today’s order will help to reduce the spread of COVID in communities across Michigan and reduce the pandemic’s disparate impact on Latinos.”   

Foreign agricultural workers pour Roma tomatoes into a box on a trailer in a field at Leitz Farms in Berrien County. Farmers in Michigan have turned to a federal program to ensure they have enough hands to harvest crops.

The order requires migrant housing camp operators to provide:  

► One-time baseline testing of all residents ages 18 and over.

► Testing of all new residents with 48 hours of arrival, with separate housing for newly arriving residents for 14 days and a second test 10–14 days after arrival.

► Testing of any resident with symptoms or exposure. 

Employers of migrant or seasonal workers, meat, poultry and egg processing facilities and greenhouses with more than 20 employees on site at a time must also provide:

► One-time baseline testing of all workers.

► Testing of all new workers prior to any in-person work.

► Testing of any worker with symptoms or exposure. 

Employers and housing operators must complete a testing plan by Aug. 10. Completion of baseline testing and implementation of ongoing testing are required no later than Aug. 24, state officials said.

“It is critical that we keep our workers and their families across the food and agriculture industry safe and healthy,” said John Cakmakci, president of UFCW Local 951.

Last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation and 30 U.S. produce industry organizations urged Congress to provide additional resources to assist growers in protecting their workforce from COVID-19.

Michigan reported 604 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, but the state has now dropped out of the top 15 nationally for total cases.

The 604 new cases and six new deaths disclosed Monday pushed the overall totals for the state to 83,386 confirmed cases and 6,212 deaths, according to tracking by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.