This afternoon the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) put out an Emergency Order under MCL 333.2253 that puts Michigan rules for COVID testing beyond what any other state requires.
We had a call on this last week and I sent out a draft of their ideas for the industry. The only changes I can find are you don’t have to test anyone under 18 years of age. They really didn’t listen to any of the groups that were on the call. I am disappointed in the order putting us as an outlier in the agriculture industry with the rest of the nation. They have also singled out agriculture industries to put a burden of higher testing requirement on while ignoring any other industry. This order not only says your employees have to be tested, but also the owners and operators of greenhouses have to be tested if you have 20 or more people on any shift. You must have a plan for conducting testing consistent with the order no later than August 10, 2020. All employers and housing operators with migrant housing and places who have over 20 employees on a shift must implement the testing requirements no later than August 24, 2020.
Here is the actual wording in the Emergency order: 3.Employers and housing providers in certain agricultural settings, as defined below, must provide diagnostic testing for COVID-19 to workers or residents and adopt infection prevention measures as follows: a. All owners and operators of migrant housing camps licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) under Part 124 of the Public Health Code (hereafter “housing operators”) must: i. Provide testing for any resident with symptoms or suspected exposure to COVID19; ii. Provide testing for all newly arriving residents within 48 hours after arrival, unless the resident has already been tested in the 72 hours before arrival; iii. To the greatest extent possible, house newly arriving residents in a separate living unit from current residents for 14 days after arrival; iv. If housing in a separate living unit cannot be accomplished, require that newly arriving residents wear a cloth face covering at all times during the first 14 days after arrival, including in dwelling units and after work hours, except when eating, drinking, or performing personal hygiene activities or if the resident cannot medically tolerate a face covering; v. Provide a second test to newly arriving residents 10 – 14 days after arrival; vi. Conduct temperature checks of residents at least once per day; vii. Provide testing for any resident registering a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. b. All agricultural employers, as defined below, with over 20 workers on site at a time (not including the employer’s family members) must: i. Provide testing for any worker with symptoms or suspected exposure to COVID19, and ii. Provide testing for all new workers prior to beginning in-person work. iii. For the purposes of this order, “agricultural employer” (hereafter “employer”) includes:
1. All employers of migrant agriculture workers who do not live on site, including H-2A workers; 2. All employers of seasonal agriculture workers who do not live on site; 3. All owners and operators of meat, poultry, and egg processing plants; 4. All owners and operators of greenhouses.
c. All employers and housing operators in sections 3(a) and 3(b) must also complete onetime baseline testing of all current workers or residents. d. All employers and housing operators in sections 3(a) and 3(b) must implement these testing requirements as soon as practicable and no later than by August 24, 2020. e. Housing operators and employers may agree by mutual consent for an employer or housing operator to enforce some or all of the requirements in section 3(a)(i. – viii.), where more practicable in the environment. Such agreements must be in writing. f. If an individual is subject to multiple testing requirements under sections 3(a) and 3(b), an employer and housing operator may utilize one test and a documented testing result to fulfill multiple testing requirements for the same period of time. Employers must take primary responsibility for testing in this instance, unless the housing operator agrees to conduct testing by mutual consent. g. Employers and housing operators only need to provide testing to individuals ages eighteen and over. Youth under the age of eighteen are exempt from the testing requirements in this section. h. Employers and housing operators are responsible for arranging testing for workers and residents as described in this order, including specimen collection from workers, laboratory processing of the specimens, and ensuring that results are reported to state and local public health authorities. Employers and housing operators may contract with occupational health firms, medical providers, laboratories, or other vendors to complete testing as needed. Any of the responsibilities of employers or housing operators under this order may also be completed by their designees, if they have contracted with a capable entity to provide that service. These contracts must be in writing. i. Employers, housing operators, or medical providers conducting testing must provide information about the test and the consequence of not testing in the individual’s preferred language. Consent or assent must be obtained from each individual to conduct the test. Employers or housing operators may not pressure, intimidate, or otherwise coerce individuals to decline testing. j. Workers who decline testing may not conduct in-person work and, if living in a licensed migrant housing camp, must be housed in isolation housing consistent with social distancing and infection prevention measures. The worker must be informed of these requirements in the worker’s preferred language. These measures must continue until the individual is tested and receives a documented negative result. k. Employers and housing operators are responsible in the first instance for financial costs resulting from testing, though they or their designee may seek reimbursement from health insurance where applicable and may seek state assistance to conduct testing as described in section 3(l). Employers and housing operators may not pass costs along to workers, including costs uncovered by health insurance, whether in the form of direct charges or indirect charges, fees, compensation changes, or other financial means. l. Employers and housing operators facing challenges arranging testing may seek assistance to conduct testing as follows: i. Employers and housing operators seeking assistance may submit a request for testing assistance to MDHHS at MDHHS-Migrant-Affairs@michigan.gov, using the attached template; ii. MDHHS may direct requestors to testing resources available through medical providers and in the community; iii. MDHHS may alternatively provide direct assistance with supplies, specimen collection, and laboratory processing; iv. The State of Michigan will provide testing support as capacity allows. The State retains sole discretion to determine whether to fulfill requests for assistance. m. As soon as practicable and no later than August 10, 2020, employers and housing operators must complete a plan for conducting testing consistent with this order, using the attached template. Such plans must, at a minimum, identify a schedule for actions; laboratories or hospitals with which the facilities will partner; and a procedure for addressing individuals who decline testing. Those plans must be made available to MDHHS, MDARD, or the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration upon request. n. When conducting testing, employers, housing operators, or their designees must ensure that laboratory requisition forms and any other documentation includes, at a minimum, the information below. These data elements ensure that state and local public health can appropriately follow up on any positive cases identified. Laboratories must comply with existing reporting requirements, namely reporting all tests completed, both positive and negative, to the Michigan Disease Surveillance System. i. Full Name ii. Date of Birth iii. Sex iv. Race v. Ethnicity vi. Facility/Employer Address vii. Patient Telephone Number viii. Date of Sampling Event (Specimen Collection) ix. Name of Specific Laboratory Test x. Date of Laboratory Test Completed xi. Laboratory Test Results xii. Laboratory Name xiii. Laboratory License Number xiv. Name, Address, Telephone, and Fax Number of the Ordering Clinician o. Employers, housing operators, or their designees must report test results to the patient. p. An employer or housing operator that requests MDHHS assistance to comply with this order by August 11, 2020, does not receive such assistance, and cannot comply for reasons beyond its control (e.g. inadequate testing supplies) may seek a determination from MDHHS that it has not violated this order. Employers or housing operators must report to MDHHS at MDHHS-Migrant-Affairs@michigan.gov within 24 hours of their known inability to comply with their testing plan. MDHHS may, in its discretion, determine that the entity cannot comply with this order for a reason beyond its control. An entity that receives such a determination from MDHHS will not be in violation of this order. q. Employers and housing operators must maintain records of testing conducted for one year and comply with any applicable confidentiality laws. MDARD may review such records and compliance with this order during any inspection, licensing renewal, or at its discretion. MDHHS may review such records at its discretion.
You can contact MDARD at 1-800-292-3939 main line, email MDA-Info@michigan.gov or Lynn Sutfin (contact on the latest order) at 517-241-2112. The state COVID-19 email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the Director of MDHHS Robert Gordon email is BowdenA1@michigan.gov. You may want to let them how this will affect your business.
Goeff Hansen Executive Director 231-301-4888 | MainStreet@sbam.org
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.
MGGC was asked to testify on the effects of the Governor’s EO’s on the greenhouse industry by the Chair of the House Agriculture at a joint meeting of the Agriculture and Commerce committees on June 23rd. Chris Schwartz and I gave an overview of the problems that were created by the EO and the lack of information we received on when and if our retail outlets would be able to sell the products that were ready to be shipped. We also brought up the fact that Michigan was an outlier in the nation in not recognizing that greenhouses and retail sales were essential services like all but one state did. The Spring/ Easter plant problems were brought up with the fact that greenhouses were essential but retail was not created a huge problem for the greenhouses that specialized in these products. MGGC’s communication and media campaign was brought up as our successful answer to getting the Governor to relax the shutdown on retail sales for the industry and keeping our retailers from having more of a crisis season. Several of the lawmakers commented on the quality of the presentation by Chris. Thank you and great job Chris!
Today the Governor put out an Executive order making all retailers deny entrance to anyone not wearing a mask and putting a misdemeanor charge and $500 fine for someone not wearing a mask in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. Businesses must refuse entry to those not wearing a mask and may be subject to their license being pulled if they don’t. There was no penalty for violating the order before. We are at a point that we don’t want to regress into having businesses closed again for a spike in the cases of COVID so make sure you have everything you need to keep your employees and customers safe and healthy. If you need any PPE, check the SBAM website or call us for supplies. SBAM has many suppliers listed that will have what you need.
On Monday the Detroit Free Press did a hit piece on one of the industry leaders about migrant labor. The article was totally slanted and written for the workers and they only looked at their side of the issue. There may be more articles so be ready for questions about labor from the press.
We will be sending out the sign up soon for the MGGC annual meeting in Traverse City at the Park Place Hotel. We have a great line up of speakers for the event and it is a great opportunity to network with the state leaders in the industry. Make sure you put October 19-21 on your schedule to hold the date!
I hope everyone is having a healthy and prosperous summer. Don’t hesitate to call if you have questions or issues we can assist you with.
This week MGGC joined AmericanHort and numerous others around the nation in sending a letter to USDA requesting to be added to the CFAP relief program. We have asked for relief for a 3 month period between January 15, 2020 and April 15, for serious economic harm from 2020 COVID-19 related disruption of the market chain during this time. The nursery and floriculture sector represents one third of the value of all specialty crops but we were not included in the original USDA-FSA direct payment relief. The letter explains the losses and gives some ideas for identifying crop values for the program. This is an interesting read so I have included the full letter here Nursery-Floriculture Comment Letter on USDA CFAP NOFA_Final_0622202.
The Michigan cases of COVID-19 continue to remain low but there is a concern of a second wave of infections as other states have had a large increase in cases in the past couple of weeks. The total number of cases in the state has risen to 61,630, including 5,864 deaths. Our state doesn’t rank in the top 10 for cases any longer but the Governor is not ready to move to stage 5 and allow more businesses to re-open. I have had reports from some members who have had employees with positive tests so we have to stay vigilant with our precaution. If you are having any difficulty finding PPE products you can visit the SBAM website (sbam.org) , call Cindy at 517-367-2033 or me at 231-301-4888 and we will try to help find what you need.
Please do not hesitate to call me or Cindy with any questions or if something arises you need some help with for your business. We can help with issues or steer you to someone who can help you work through them.
Mark your calendars for October 19th – 21st for our first ever destination annual meeting in Traverse City at the Park Place Hotel! We have a great line up of speakers and it is a great time to network with other industry leaders. Watch your emails for the invites soon.
As I have contacted members around the state, it looks like everyone is doing a brisk business and things are getting back to semi-normal. It looks like retail has been very busy and some folks are running a little low on plants that are ready. People are ready to plant their gardens and decorate their yards while they are at home.
I want to thank everyone who has supported the industry with our media push. This has raised public awareness of our industry and will pay dividends for a long time. Keep up the positive message if you are contacted for any follow up from the media. Please continue to diligently follow your cleaning and social distancing rules even though things seem to be back to normal. We cannot have any setbacks in the industry now. Keep it up!
Don’t forget our new Member Marketplace service on the website (MGGC.org). As a member you can list products you may be long on or equipment you no longer use. Now is the time to think about putting a free ad in the Marketplace. Think of it as a Craigslist for greenhouses. Also, as a member you can use SBAM’s website (sbam.org) to find PPE and cleaning products for your business. Feel free to call me or Cindy, if you are having any issues finding PPE or if we can answer any questions.
Goeff Hansen Executive Director 231-301-4888 | MainStreet@sbam.org
Today I was able to visit some open garden centers around the region. It was great to see the importance that is being put on customer and employee safety. This is so important! We have promised our industry will set the standard for safety and we need to show we mean what we say. As one of the first industries allowed to re-open we will be under the microscope statewide. Now the media is doing segments on how we are handling being open and seeing if we are following the rules as we have laid out. This is where the rubber hits the road, showing just how seriously we take this. Just remember that the rules can be changed just as fast to close our businesses again if we are seen as a problem in safety. Keep up the great work and make sure you have everything you need to be open.
Now that retail greenhouses and garden centers are allowed to be open, I will not be doing a briefing every day. You have too much to do and I hope I don’t have as much to send out affecting our industry. I will send out briefings as I have news that I think is important. I hope the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council and our daily briefing has been helpful in keeping you up to speed with what was going on in the state. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to send them to us.
I am hearing rumors that Governor Whitmer will announce some relaxations of the rules of the Stay at Home Order in her 3 pm press conference tomorrow. The Detroit News reported her statement today: “We need to keep it up. I’m hoping to say more on when we can start loosening restrictions as soon as Friday of this week,” Whitmer said.
This could possibly mean online, delivery or curbside or allowing some retail with safety restrictions. I think this is still in flux and I have heard this type of thing a couple of other days, but it was pulled back before it was announced. Hopefully tomorrow she will begin to allow the economy to get back on track at some level. This was in an alert from MIRS news this afternoon: Gov. Gretchen WHITMER is expected to announce Friday, along with an emergency powers resolution extension, the ability for Michigan residents to golf and motorboat as long as proper social distancing measures are followed and other safety precautions are made. The Governor is also expected to allow the paint and gardening sections of larger stores to reopen if safety precautions are followed, a dial back of her Executive Order 2020-42, which generated significant public agitation, sources tell MIRS.
My source tells me she may allow garden centers to do the same as the big box stores for the gardening items. This is all still rumor until we hear from Governor Whitmer tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope we finally get some good news tomorrow.
Today’s message will be short since there is no real changes to what we know. The Governor held a press conference today and what we got were a lot of mixed signals about what and when the next steps will be happening. She said there will probably be a short extension of the stay home order but there may be some relaxation of the rules. I have heard she is looking at Friday for her next announcement. Our media campaign is still going very well with media contacts around the state. Here are a few of them.
Please continue to get our message out on social media by sharing any posts that help our cause. On our weekly MDARD call today there was no signal about when we could expect to be allowed to re-open and I asked for them to give us a few days notice, if possible, to get staff trained and have stores ready to go. I will try to get more info and will share as soon as I can.
Now for the bad news….. the USDA has sent out a release today letting us know they have found Ralstonia in Michigan. I don’t have any more information yet other than what they put in their release. I will try to find out more about this as soon as I can
Keep up the great work sharing our message on Facebook and other social media platforms! It is getting to all parts of the state many times over. Thank you.
Today the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council sent a letter to Governor Whitmer outlining how Michigan retail greenhouses and garden centers would keep their employees and customers safe in these difficult times. The letter showed that retail greenhouses and garden centers can and are ready to operate safely, protecting customers from COVID-19. It goes on to state that we are encouraged by your commitment to allowing jobsites to safely re-open and your hope to begin the process by May 1st. Michigan greenhouses and garden centers are ready to be a part of that first phase and having a May 1st target date in mind would help employers begin to accelerate training for new safety processes in locations across the state.
It is our responsibility to operate in a safe way, and garden centers can. Michigan garden centers can and are ready to do what our neighbors in Ohio are already doing as they operate during this time. We have taken and are taking many important and carefully targeted steps to ensure our operations are safe, including changes in the way we do business to:
Offer online shopping, call ahead orders, curbside pickup or delivery as available
Limit the number of customers near the cash registers and in the store at any given time. Many retailers are marking the floor in check-out lines to encourage social distancing.
Sanitize all carts, baskets, door handles throughout the day, as well as credit card pads
Require staff members to sanitize regularly
Have hand sanitizer available for consumers and staff at the checkout
Require social distancing between staff and customers in the store, grounds and greenhouses. Greenhouses are so large, social distancing is not hard and the person per square foot guidelines are easily met.
We also respectfully ask any individual- whether a customer or an employee – exhibiting even minor symptoms to stay home.
We then go on to show examples of Michigan garden centers and greenhouses leading the way in working safe, even during the current downtime and give several examples of what centers have already put in place getting ready to open. You can read the entire letter Letter to Governor Whitmer – Work Safe Plan_FINAL. We have sent out a MGGC Release_WorkSafePlansReady_4.20.2020 and already have several press inquiries for media. If you get contacted, be ready to talk about how you are ready to open safely and discuss the steps your business is taking to keep people safe.
Now is the time to make sure your business is ready for business, with all of the safety precautions in place. Everyone needs to have a safety plan ready to implement it when you open. The Governor has signaled that she is willing to look at re-opening our economy and we need to lead during the first phase, so that we can set an example for all.