California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced a new set of guidelines designed to support the state’s workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the agricultural and farm workers who are on the front line, growing the food people need.
“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 depends on keeping our workers safe,” Governor Newsom says. “The vital work they do every day puts them and their families at higher risk for exposure and infection. Working with the legislature, we will advance new initiatives to support these key workers and their employers.”
The safeguards include actions to increase outreach and education to slow the spread and reduce the risk for COVID-19 at work, at home, and in the community, and to support workers who need to isolate and quarantine outside their home. The guidelines note that providing safe, suitable places for isolation outside a home will help stop the spread to other household members, which is especially important to those who are part of multigenerational households.
According to the Newsom, California will now allocate existing federal funds to local public health departments and community-based organizations to assist with supportive services for isolation and quarantine through an initiative called Housing for the Harvest. Under the program, the state will book hotel rooms in participating counties for workers who need to self-isolate for up to two weeks. The state will also coordinate with local administrators who manage the program.
Participants of the program must work in California’s food processing or agriculture industries, meet FEMA non-congregate sheltering criteria for COVID-19, have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19 as documented by a public health official or medical health professional, and be unable to self-isolate at home.
The program operates in partnership with counties and local partners in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Imperial Valley—California’s regions with the highest number of agricultural workers.
Newsom is also working with the state legislature to advance worker protections, especially for those working in agricultural and on farms. “Expanded paid sick leave will provide workers financial security so they are able to stay home when sick,” he said. “Similarly, workers’ compensation access helps ensure that front-line workers can quarantine and stay home from work when ill.”
Additionally, as more businesses in the state look to reopen, the governor introduced a new employer playbook that will help guide companies on how to provide a clean environment for workers and customers to reduce risk. As part of this playbook, the state will provide employers information to share with their workers regarding health insurers’ COVID-19 testing coverage and eligibility requirements—which is essential for all agriculture workers to understand.