An emergency order issued this week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) requires all agricultural and food processing workers in the state to undergo COVID-19 testing as officials attempt to curb growing numbers of infections in the state.
“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,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a an August 3 release. “Today’s order will help to reduce the spread of COVID in communities across Michigan and reduce the pandemic’s disparate impact on Latinos.”
11 outbreaks have been documented in farms and food processing plants in Michigan over the past few weeks. Latinos have accounted for 11% of COVID-19 cases in the state where the individual’s ethnicity was recorded. MDHHS will work with food facility operators on access to PPE and reporting testing data.
Michigan’s emergency order mandates that meat, poultry, and egg processing facilities with over 20 workers present at one time must provide one-time baseline testing of all workers, testing of all new workers before the start of in-person work, and testing of any worker with coronavirus symptoms or exposure. A similar set of testing requirements was also issued for operators of migrant housing camps.
“Ensuring the health and safety of Michigan’s essential food and agriculture workers is paramount to keeping our food supply chain moving,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell said in a statement. “These workers are our frontline staff who are a vital part of bringing our food from farm to plate.”
Operators of food processing facilities in Michigan have until August 10 to develop a plan for how they will test their staff in compliance with the emergency order. Testing can be conducted by contracted a medical provider, using occupational health providers or a laboratory to create a testing program, or using other resources in the community. Facilities can also request state assistance to carry out the tests.
To view a guidance document on the new requirements for Michigan food processing and agriculture employers, click here.