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MDHHS issues order requiring COVID-19 testing of agricultural and food processing employees

11 identified outbreaks in farms and food processing plants in recent weeks

Coronavirus testing tubes
Coronavirus testing tubes (AP)

DETROIT – Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon has issued an Emergency Order requiring COVID-19 testing for agricultural and food processing employees.

“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 Gordon.  “Today’s order will help to reduce the spread of COVID in communities across Michigan and reduce the pandemic’s disparate impact on Latinos.”    

In recent weeks, there have been 11 identified outbreaks in farms and food processing plants in Michigan. In addition, Latinos are 5 percent of Michigan’s population but represent 11 percent of COVID cases in which the individual’s ethnicity is identified. 

The order requires migrant housing camp operators to provide COVID-19 testing as follows:

· 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 over 20 employees on-site at a time to provide COVID-19 testing as follows:

· 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. 

“The department will work with employers and housing operators to ensure timely reporting of testing data and access to PPE so that together we can prevent further viral spread,” Gordon said.   

“Ensuring the health and safety of Michigan’s essential food and agriculture workers is paramount to keeping our food supply chain moving,” said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “These workers are our frontline staff who are a vital part of bringing our food from farm to plate.” “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. “I applaud Directors Gordon and McDowell for their efforts to protect the people of Michigan and our economy.”

On July 28, 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.

Anyone who believes they might have coronavirus should follow the CDC guidelines. Michigan.gov has a list of resources available to those concerned about COVID-19.

More information on coronavirus (COVID-19):