LANSING, MICH. – The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an emergency order on Aug. 3 that would require COVID-19 testing for all agricultural and food processing employees.
This announcement comes after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order in July to require protection for employees at meatpacking plants during the pandemic.
Michigan state officials said 11 outbreaks have been identified in farms and food processing plants in the state in recent weeks. MDHHS also stated that even though Latinos represent 5% of Michigan’s population, they represent 11% of the COVID cases when an individual’s ethnicity is identified.
“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 Michigan 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.”
The order states that all migrant housing camp operators provide COVID-19 testing as a one-time baseline test to all residents over the age of 18. All new residents who arrive within 48 hours must be tested, with separate housing available for newly arriving residents for 14 days. A second test must be administered 10-14 days after arrival.
Employers of migrant or seasonal workers in the meat, poultry and egg processing facilities with over 20 employees must also provide a one-time baseline test to all workers, test all new workers prior to any in-person work and test any worker with symptoms.
Gordon said his department will work with employers and housing operators to have timely reporting and testing data along with access to PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“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.”
The agency also set a deadline of Aug. 10 for employers and housing operators to complete a plan to implement testing. MDHHS is requiring baseline testing to be completed no later than Aug. 24.
“Employers and housing operators have several options for completing the required testing, including contracting with a medical provider, occupational health provider or laboratory to arrange a testing program; requesting state assistance to conduct testing; or utilizing testing resources in the broader community,” the executive order said. “The state will provide testing support for employers or housing operators as its capacity allows and assist facilities in identifying other sources of testing capacity as needed.”