On June 24, 2020 the NY State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued Interim Guidance for Quarantine Restrictions on Travelers Arriving in New York State Following Out of State Travel. This was in response to the high rates of COVID-19 infection now occuring in many southern U.S. states. NYSDOH is providing a regularly updated list of the restricted states and it currently includes 16 states. The NYSDOH Guidance requires anyone entering NY from those states to quarantine for 14 days. Some NY agricultural producers source part of their seasonal farm workforce from the southern U.S., especially during the fall harvest when labor demands reach peak. The June 24 NYSDOH Guidance contains the following language specific to long-term, essential workers:
Long Term – for essential workers traveling to New York State for a period of greater than 36 hours, requiring them to stay several days. This includes instances such as an essential worker working on longer projects, fulfilling extended employment obligations, and other longer duration activities.
• Essential workers should seek diagnostic testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible upon arrival (within 24 hours) to ensure they are not positive.
• Essential workers should monitor temperature and signs of symptoms, wear a face covering when in public, maintain social distancing, clean and disinfect workspaces for a minimum of 14 days.
• Essential workers, to the extent possible, are required to avoid extended periods in public, contact with strangers, and large congregate settings for a period of, at least, 7 days.
Note that the first bulleted item above indicates that essential workers should seek diagnostic testing as soon as possible upon arrival. It seems logical that if an essential worker receives a negative result from a COVID-19 diagnostic test then they can discontinue quarantine, we are working to confirm with the state that this is the case but do not have confirmation at the time of this post.
Farm employees continue to be classified as “essential workers,” this means that farm employees can work during their quarantine period. They are required to maintain a strict routine while at work and employers are well-advised to support and reinforce this working quarantine in order to protect others employees. NYSDOH and NYS Dept of Ag and Markets clearly described the working quarantine protocol in the Interim Guidance for Prevention and Response of COVID-19 at Farms issued on May 27, 2020.
Workers who are considered essential personnel, as described in the Department’s Health Advisory: Protocols for Essential Personnel to Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure or Infection, who meet quarantine criteria described above, may be allowed to work in accordance with the Department’s Health Advisory and if they:
• Remain asymptomatic.
• Remain in quarantine when not at work. Workers may be quarantined in their own home or at a location designated by the operator that meets LHD (local health department) quarantine requirements.
• If it is difficult to provide for 6 foot separation between essential workers while in quarantine, essential workers may be quarantined in a recreational vehicle, a motel/hotel room, at home in their own room, etc.
• Rely on LHDs and employers to provide essential needs such as healthcare, food, medications, and laundry.
• Undergo temperature monitoring and symptom checks upon arrival to work, and at least every 12 hours thereafter while at work, and self-monitor (i.e. take temperature, assess for symptoms) twice a day when not at work. Operators must have thermometers on site to perform temperature checks.
• Wear a face covering while in the presence of any other individual.
• Immediately stop work and notify their supervisor if they develop ANY symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The LHD may be consulted on next steps as outlined below.
• Testing should be prioritized for essential personnel with symptoms.
COVID-19 diagnostic testing is available for all essential personnel. Contact your local health department for details about how to get the test.
By Richard Stup, Cornell University. Permission granted to repost, quote, and reprint with author attribution.
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