The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Health, and Labor are encouraging farmers to register for the COVID-19 testing initiative for seasonal workers, as announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo last week. The state is making available free, on-farm COVID-19 testing to agricultural workers in Wayne, Orleans, Genesee, Ulster and Clinton Counties, which see the highest number of out-of-state workers during harvest season. The registration page is available here.
Farms who hire seasonal workers in these counties are being offered an opportunity to have workers tested. This initiative is voluntary, free and will be set-up at sites selected by the farms who participate.
Farms who participate in these events must also ensure that they:
- Have read, understood and comply with the State’s guidelines in the documents listed below.
- Have a plan, including housing available to isolate workers if they are positive and quarantine workers who are identified as contacts to a case.
- Have a plan to supplement their current workforce, if the need arises.
- Pre-register using the link above.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The health and safety of our essential workers in agriculture and keeping our food supply chain moving have been the Department’s priority since the COVID-19 pandemic began. New York State is committed to continuing to help our farms take the necessary precautions to prevent and respond to COVID-19. Providing education and bringing testing directly to our communities will ensure we are reaching the seasonal workers on our farms for this upcoming harvest.”
Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “As we have seen an increase in clusters associated with farms that employ seasonal workers who have traveled from out of state, this testing initiative will help us isolate any individuals who test positive and prevent the virus from spreading. Thanks to every New Yorker’s participation, we have been able to flatten the curve of infection, but it will take a continued effort, including statewide testing and contact tracing, to maintain our success.”
Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “All workers in New York State are guaranteed a safe and healthy work environment. We urge all farms to participate in this vital COVID-19 testing program to protect their farm workers and their families and to ensure that their farms will have a successful harvest.”
The prevention and testing initiative also includes partnering with the county health departments, local/community health care providers, county Cornell Cooperative Extensions and New York Farm Bureau to directly engage and educate farmers and farm workers on the State’s prevention and quarantine protocols.
Farms will continue to partner with their local health departments to address the screening, isolation and quarantine status, and housing needs of their workers. Farm workers are considered essential workers and may continue to work while
under quarantine, provided the required conditions are followed.
From the start of the pandemic, New York State has issued guidance to assist the agricultural industry remain operational and to provider worker protections. This includes Guidance for Prevention of and Response to COVID-19 on Farms, Prevention Tips for Farmworkers, and an Operator Checklist for Farms.
As New York began its phased reopening, New York State outlined mandatory protections for essential workers in its NY Forward guidance. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets implemented, with assistance from county Cornell Cooperative Extensions, a robust statewide effort to ensure farms had access to personal protective equipment, such as masks and sanitizer.
To view all guidance provided for New York State farms and the agricultural industry, visit: https://agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus