By Rep. Debra Lekanoff
As testing for COVID-19 expands, we really are beginning to see who is impacted, and which communities need our help most. Our farm and food workers here in Washington are showing high infection rates, and it is incredibly important that we address their safety now.
When 71 residents of an agricultural housing facility near East Wenatchee were recently tested because five workers showed symptoms for COVID-19, half of the results came back positive. Virtually all of those found to be infected were asymptomatic, further highlighting the need for wider testing and safety to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.
It is clear that there is more work to do to ensure workers across the entire agricultural sector have adequate access to appropriate sanitation facilities, hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment. Those who work our fields and grow our food help keep stomachs full and kitchens stocked, and we must make their safety an absolute priority in these trying times.
Governor Inslee previously issued Proclamation 20-25, “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” and Proclamation 20-46, “High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights,” to establish guidelines and regulations for the safety of all workers. The Governor has now directed the Departments of Health and Labor & Industries to propose emergency rules for farm and food workers that will complement existing guidelines and regulations. Together, these are a tremendous step towards keeping these truly essential workers safe and healthy, however, there is still work to be done.
The solutions in the proposed rules are not complete, most notably a potential exemption from social distancing requirements in sleeping quarters and an expedited review process to allow the use of tents. Instead of creating multiple exemptions we need real solutions that involve FEMA-approved shelters with proper cooling, heating, and ventilation and/or the use of unused hotel spaces.
Finally, we need a continued emphasis on testing and protection will keep Washingtonian farmers, their employees, and distribution food supply chain workers healthy and safe.
These issues continue to be a top priority for me and I am working closely with our community leaders, my fellow legislators, and the Governor’s office to make sure that all Washingtonians are safe and healthy.
For any questions, please email me directly at email@example.com.
Paid for by Vote Debra Lekanoff (D) 10789 N Beach Road Bow, WA 98232