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MDHHS rolls back COVID-19 testing requirement for agricultural workers

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Posted at 2:55 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 14:55:55-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has rescinded its order requiring COVID-19 testing for agricultural employees.

It’s thanks to increasing vaccination rates, declining coronavirus cases, expanded access to testing and vaccinations and enhanced housing and worker protections in effect to help mitigate the spread of the virus, according to a news release Friday.

“With COVID-19 transmission numbers low and increasing vaccination rates, we are removing the requirement for testing for these workers,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said. “The most important tool we have is the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and we encourage everyone to join the nearly 62% of Michiganders who have already been vaccinated as soon as possible.”

MDHHS recently awarded six contracts totaling almost $60 million to help improve COVID-19 vaccination access for high-risk populations and settings across the setting, including for seasonal agricultural workers.

In addition, partnerships have been created with federally qualified health care centers, employers and communities to meet workers where they are and provide vaccination, testing and support to keep workers and families safe. This includes vaccinations offered by the Michigan Primary Care Association.

“The Michigan Primary Care Association – in partnership with our member health centers – have built a successful partnership with the state, farm operators, local health departments, workers and communities to meet workers where they are and provide vaccination and testing,” said Dennis Litos, MPCA interim chief executive. “Health centers are proud to provide health care to farm workers at the health center location or at the mobile unit’s location to deliver the safe and effective vaccination right at the farm.”

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued updated emergency rules June 22 that align with federal guidance, allowing employers to use their best judgment in determining whether to maintain daily health screenings, mask requirements and social distancing requirements.

Other protections for agricultural workers also remain in effect.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Feb. 25 emergency rules continues to require that agricultural laborer housing camps establish COVID-19 preparedness and response plans, as well as provide quarantine housing for workers who were exposed to the virus, among other protections.

“I am thankful for the steps taken by our food and agriculture community to safeguard the health of this vital workforce throughout the course of the pandemic,” MDARD Director Gary McDowell said. “Keeping the established response plan requirements for this growing season provides our growers and processors guidance should a positive employee be identified.”