The coronavirus is making its way to farms and food-processing plants. This is what they’re doing about it.
LANSING, MICHIGAN — Michigan has ordered coronavirus testing of agricultural and migrant workers, citing nearly a dozen outbreaks at farms and food-processing plants in recent weeks.
Under the emergency order issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services, migrant housing camp operators must do initial baseline testing of all residents age 18 and older. New residents must be tested within 48 hours of their arrival, be provided separate housing and get a second test 10 to 14 days after arriving.
Agricultural employers with more than 20 workers on site at a time must also ensure testing — both for current and new employees and any workers with symptoms or suspected exposure to COVID-19. The requirement applies to meat, poultry and egg processing plants; greenhouses; and employers that hire migrant or seasonal workers who do not live on site.
“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,” Robert Gordon, director of the health department, said in a statement. “Today’s order will help to reduce the spread of COVID in communities across Michigan and reduce the pandemic’s disparate impact on Latinos.”
A spokeswoman said department officials were not aware of any other states requiring such universal testing of agricultural and migrant workers.
Gordon cited 11 recently identified outbreaks in farms and food processing plants, and said Latinos are 5% of Michigan’s population but account for 11% of virus cases in which the individual’s ethnicity is identified.
The testing must be implemented as “soon as practicable” and no later than Aug. 24, according to the order. State grants are available to help mitigate testing and other virus costs.
Also Monday, the state reported six additional coronavirus-related deaths and 604 more confirmed cases, bringing the death count to 6,467 and the case count to more than 92,000 when probable deaths and cases are included. The seven-day average as of Sunday, about 728, had remained mostly constant over the previous two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. So had the daily death toll, which was roughly eight.
The University of Michigan said Monday that students who return to campus for the fall semester must observe a 14-day period of “enhanced” social distancing before arriving in Ann Arbor or on campus. Classes start Aug. 31.
Students who return — about 70% of undergraduate credits can be completed remotely — were told to take steps such as monitoring for a fever by taking their temperature two times a day and staying home and not going to work, school or social gatherings.
Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley urged students who will take all online classes in the fall to consider staying at home. The vast majority of first-year students will have course schedules that are completely online, he said. The school is waiving its requirement that freshmen live on campus.