COVID-19 Update: Farm Operators Receive Guidance

New Jersey issued guidance to assist agricultural businesses and farm workers in minimizing the risk and potential exposure to COVID-19.

State officials of the departments of Health, Labor and Agriculture note agricultural work puts thousands of seasonal farm workers in close proximity with co-workers as well as relying on employer-provided group transportation and camp-style housing.

“Our farmers are highly concerned for their workers and families and understand the need to work together to ensure a healthy and safe environment,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said in a press release.

Workplace Safety

The state guidance to farm employers and operators outlines a framework to minimize the spread of COVID-19 for farm workers throughout the production process, shared housing and group transportation as well as for screening and caring for individuals with suspected or confirmed virus infections.

Workers must wear employer-provided face coverings or masks at all times including while taking transportation, during work hours, and in the presence of others.

Employers are to promote social distancing by requiring workers to remain six feet from each other while working in the fields or farming work. The state is encouraging staggered shifts to minimize the density of workers in the field and other work locations.

Housing, Transportation Rules

As for housing, employers must follow CDC recommendations for congregate living if workers are provided housing by the employer. Beds are to be placed at least six feet apart, while mealtimes should be staggered to reduce crowding in shared eating facilities. 

Employers must implement social distancing while transporting workers to and from their residency and work. Vehicles should be limited to 50% capacity, which may require additional trips to and from the worksite.

In regards to the health of season workers, employers are to collaborate with their local Federally Qualified Health Center or local public health officials to identify culturally, linguistically, and literacy-level appropriate posters and education materials for workers, including those who may be unable to read or write to ensure all workers are aware of this information.

High Priority

“Protecting seasonal workers on these farms is a high priority because they work and live in close proximity to one another,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We are working closely with growers, local health departments and our Federally Qualified Health Centers to minimize that risk and to ensure that once they are tested, follow-up, and isolation and quarantine plans are in place for workers.”

If any symptoms are shown, the state is mandating workers immediately be cohorted from other workers and seen by a doctor, who will determine if a test is needed. Pending medical attention and testing, workers with symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection are to be confined to individual rooms and avoid common areas.

Once a worker is suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19, employers are to contact the local health department and immediately assign the worker a separate bathroom and provide separate living space, or alternate housing if effective isolation in their current living space is not possible. Workers who were in close contact with the affected workers are to be screened and watched for symptoms.

Daily Data

As of May 24, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 154,154 with 1,065 new cases and 52 new deaths, bringing that total to 11,133. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,595, followed by Bergen with 1,525, Hudson at 1,139, Passaic at 890, Morris at 592, Sussex at 145 and Warren with 126.

State Testing 

Officials reported 2,857 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus while 278 patients were discharged. The north tier had 1,484 patients hospitalized, the central 730 and the south 643.

Of those hospitalized, 76 are in intensive care units and 639 on ventilators. There are currently 45 patients in field hospitals, with 465 treated overall. 

Hudson Tops County Count

Hudson has the most cumulative cases in the state with 17,977 followed by Bergen at 17,804, Essex at 17,142, Passaic at 15,686, Middlesex at 15,351, Union at 15,169, Ocean at 8,372, Monmouth at 7,800, Mercer at 6,413, Morris at 6,207, Camden at 6,024, Somerset at 4,450, Burlington at 4,308, Gloucester at 2,066, Atlantic at 1,961, Cumberland at 1,947, Warren at 1,125, Sussex at 1,079, Hunterdon at 960, Cape May at 561 and Salem at 552.

Another 1,200 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 53% White, 19% Black, 19% Hispanic, 6% Asian and 3% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. 

A census of ages for 9,941 confirmed deaths shows 47% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 33% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 4% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 535 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 30,043 of the cases, broken down between 20,566 residents and 9,477 staff. The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, which was 4,755 on May 24. The facilities are reporting to the state of 5,619 residents deaths and 100 staff deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown:  

Bergen County 

  • 63  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 3006 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 1412 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 890  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 10  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

Essex County 

  • 46  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1980 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 832 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 528  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 19  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

Morris County 

  • 42  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1276 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 573 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 439  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 3  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

Passaic County 

  • 25  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1054 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 603 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 324  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 13  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

Hudson County 

  • 15  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 697 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 388 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 178  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 6  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

Warren County 

  • 7  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 401 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 106 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 106  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 1  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

Sussex County 

  • 5  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 243 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 116 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 102  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*
  • 4  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities*

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