On Monday the Michigan Department of Agriculture hosted an online meeting with the commodities groups to discuss the Draft Public Health Order on COVID-19 Testing in Agriculture Settings. Also on the call was Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, who probably authored the draft even though they have no experience dealing with the agriculture industry. I have attached the 2020.07.24 – Draft Order Summary (5) to give everyone the chance to see what they are proposing to do to the industry. I was very disappointed with the draft because they obviously had not consulted anyone in the industry before they put together their summary. The Draft Health Order deals with migrant housing camps by ordering one-time initial testing of all residents, which was clarified to include any children that may be housed at the camps. Testing of all new residents within 48 hours of arrival to the camp, with separate housing for newly arriving residents for 14 days afterward and a second test at the end of the 14 days plus testing of anyone with exposure or symptoms. The workers could work but not around other workers for the 14 days.
They also have a section for agriculture employers with over 20 employees on-site at one time with greenhouses and indoor nurseries listed as employer types listed. They would require a one-time initial testing of all workers, as well as testing of all new workers prior to in-person work which would mean you would have to wait for a clear result on the test before they can work. This may mean 5-7 days before the test results are available and the employer would have to pay the worker during the wait time. They suggest two options for testing. The employer can contract with any capable medical provider, occupational health provider or laboratory to arrange for a testing program in which the cost would be born by the employer or request state assistance to conduct the testing or provide testing supplies.
As an industry we have been very vigilant in preparing employees and staff for dealing with the COVID virus, providing PPE as well as sanitizing in the work environment and I am afraid they are going to pile more regulations on the industry again even though we have not had a serious outbreak. When asked who would monitor compliance, they stated that MDARD, MDHHS, or LEO could ask for your records on testing and compliance. This is a huge change from the past when MDARD was the lead agency and we knew what to expect from them. Adding the two other departments will only create chaos for the greenhouse industry. We want everyone to stay safe but don’t need to add more rules on top of the ones we already have in place that are working.