Grower Shipper Association Partners With Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas to Expedite COVID-19 Testing for Farm Workers
SALINAS, CA - If nothing else, the challenges created by COVID-19 have united the industry on multiple fronts, from the seed to the store, as we look to the betterment of tomorrow. In an effort to protect farm employees while allowing healthy employees to return to work more quickly, the Grower Shipper Association of the Central Coast (GSA) teamed with Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas (CSVS) to provide COVID-19 testing with more timely results and, on top of that, more convenient locations for those essential workers keeping the industry thriving.
"We worked to create an option that prioritizes testing for agricultural employees, whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 or not, with shorter turnaround times," explains Chris Valadez, GSA President. "After hearing that test results could take up to six days, for the benefit of farm workers and farm employers, we joined with CSVS to expedite results. This new program provides results within 48 hours."
This latest move by the groups is addressing the challenges of test results that previously took so long that farm employers faced labor shortages while agricultural workers quarantined after a potential exposure, according to a press release.
"Farm workers have two weeks of paid sick time; however, it is still frustrating and unsettling for them to quarantine for so many days while awaiting test results," Valadez says.
In addition to faster results, GSA and CSVS are also providing more convenient locations for testing where a farm employer can fill out a form supplied by GSA with the number of farm workers requiring testing, along with their preferred time and location. CSVS supplies the staff to conduct the testing. Additionally, all test results are reported to the local health department.
"The agricultural workforce is an 'essential workforce' and must be protected to make sure that our nation's food supply is abundant and secure," says Dr. Maximiliano Cuevas.
With even more efforts in mind, GSA has partnered with local hospitals to provide onsite COVID-19 prevention training for agricultural workers, establish quarantined housing where workers—who have symptoms, test positive, or are exposed to the virus—can rest and recover with daily health checks where over one million masks for farm workers have been secured, the release adds.
"As we move through the pandemic, we continue to learn more about how to protect farm workers and, at the same time, how to continue to harvest and ship healthy fruits and vegetables to consumers," Valadez says. "This new testing program is another step toward evolving programs developed during COVID-19."
As the industry continues to come together around the events created by COVID-19, keep checking back with AndNowUKnow for updates and more.