With COVID-19 cases surging across the region, the Fresno County Department of Public Health released new health-safety guidelines for the agriculture industry.
Fresno County has around 70,000 farmworkers, many of which have health conditions that make them susceptible to the coronavirus, county Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said.
“This population suffers from significant health disparities, which increases their risk of developing adverse health complications of COVID-19,” Vohra said in a statement. “As the pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on these essential workers, it is increasingly clear that we need to secure our food supply chain and protect the health and safety of this vital workforce.”
Wayne Fox, a Program Manager with the department of public health, said Wednesday in a briefing that while the agriculture industry in Fresno County is not required to follow these guidelines, the department is encouraging employers and farmworkers to follow them to ensure safety on the job site.
“I want to emphasize that these are guidelines,” Fox said. “These are things that when our staff go out in the field and try to answer questions from the public and from farmers, that this is a reference document, something they can use to try to answer their questions.
The guidelines discuss various topics such as employee hygiene, employer provided transportation safety and implementing a worksite coordinator to create a COVID-19 safety plan for the worksite.
“It’s really a basic guideline, and it’s really simple,” Fox said. “The idea is that if you’re an average guy and you don’t know where to start, this would be a good place to start.”
One of the suggestions the department has made within the guidelines is for workplaces to start a COVID-19 screening program by randomly testing 10% of the workplace every two weeks, which would quickly identify positive cases and prevent major outbreaks.
Other recommendations in the guidelines are standard to the health-safety guidance for other business sectors.
With the state requiring all workers to wear face masks, the county also suggests that workers maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
Employers should provide a health assessment for all workers which asks about any known COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, and workers should have their temperature taken
If any workers test positive for COVID-19 they should quarantine for at least 10 days, and everyone who came in close contact with that individual should be tested immediately.
The full guidelines can be viewed here.