Wednesday, September 02, 2020

In the absence of much federal guidance, some states and counties mandate covid-19 testing for farmworkers

"A handful of states and counties are creating covid-19 testing mandates for agricultural workers after clusters of positive cases were linked to farms, labor camps and food-packing facilities across the country," Kate Queram reports for Route Fifty. "Agricultural workers have a higher risk of contracting covid-19 due to their lack of health insurance and living conditions, experts say, noting that many seasonal farmworkers, for example, will be housed together and travel to and from work in groups."

The Trump administration declared farm laborers "essential workers" but didn't provide much guidance on how to keep them from getting sick or spreading the infection, leaving states and farmers to figure it out. 

"As of mid-July, only eight states had established mandatory regulations to protect agricultural workers from covid-19, while an additional 16 have issued testing recommendations but stopped short of official policies," Queram reports. "Others have ramped up existing policies." Also, some county governments have created local testing policies on top of state-level regulations.

Some regulations "have been met with controversy," Queram reports. "In Michigan, an emergency testing order for farm workers was challenged in court by several farmers, employees and agricultural organizations, which said the mandatory policy violated the civil rights of the Hispanic and Latino community. A federal judge earlier denied a request to place a hold on the order while the lawsuit makes its way through the court system, meaning farm and food processing workers are still subject to the policy during litigation. Facilities had until Aug. 24 to comply with the order."

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