There's no denying for Tulare County and the San Joaquin Valley to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, what's being done in agricultural will play a huge role.
With that in mind, efforts on several fronts are being made to make sure agriculture does its part in the battle against COVID-19. Earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom “strike teams” made up of 10 state agencies to better enforce guidelines to battle the COVID-19 pandemic across the state.
Among those agencies is Cal/OSHA and the agency has been making trips to farms and agricultural facilities in the San Joaquin Valley to enforce health orders related to the coronavirus.
Cal/OSHA has strategically targeted its investigations in places that have seen the highest workplace outbreaks.
Cal/OSHA has been checking the agricultural industry for violations of health mandates. Minimum fines for violations are being estimated at $5,000.
Cal/OSHA does have several tips for those in the Ag industry to make sure they're in compliance:
Those in the Ag industry should have comprehensive safety plans and practices. They should also keep a record of all the measures and money they've spent on preventative programs and how they've changed their workplace.
They should also have record of all training records and materials. Farmers, growers and ranchers and managers in the Ag and food processing industry should communicate with their crews on a daily basis.
And those in the Ag industry should regularly review all of these measures.
Cal/OSHA has issued a press release on how businesses can follow guidelines which can be found here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2020/2020-63.html
Among the requirements are to make sure workers are at least six feet apart or at least install barriers. Workers should also be provided enough time and supplies to disinfect common surfaces.
Workers are encouraged to wash their hands frequently according to CDC guidelines and should be provided enough time and supplies to do so.
Employees should be provided with cloth face coverings. If they use their own, they should be reimbursed for the cost.
Workers should also be screened such as their temperatures being taken.
And if workers feel sick they should stay home and be informed about sick leave benefits. There have been reports of employers not taking the proper precautions when it comes to sick employees and allowing them to go home.
Last week, Newsom also announced an initiative to protect the state's essential workers, including the 625,000 who work in the Ag industry.
Among the new programs is Housing for the Harvest that offers temporary hotel housing to farm and food processing workers who need to isolate due to COVID-19.
There's no denying the Hispanic population makes up a large portion of essential workers, including farmworkers and in Tulare County they continue to be the highest ethnic group who test positive for COVID-19.
As of Friday, Tulare County Health and Human Services reported 5,060 COVID-19 cases have been Hispanics, which by far is the most among the cases in which the ethnicity is known.
Another strike team, one of three strike teams sent to the San Joaquin Valley, from three different agencies has been sent to Tulare, Kings and Kern Counties.
Newsom announced $52 million in federal funds would be used to help the Valley battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Tulare County is expected to receive $5.7 million of that funding.
The idea of the strike team sent to the South Valley is to duplicate what was done in Imperial County, which had been a “hot spot” in California. A similar effort in Imperial County that's now being implemented in the Valley helped reduce Imperial County's 14-day case rate by 63 percent.
The strike team in the South Valley will look to help the area improve its contact tracing, staffing of hospitals and look at settings where there's larger groups of people such as nursing homes and food processing facilities.
It's also hoped through the effort there will be faster results from testing, including for lower-priority residents. Tulare County has also stated its intent to have mobile testing sites in rural communities as well.