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MDHHS Issues New Agricultural Worker Testing Order

June 23, 2021
Agriculture Advisory

UPDATE: On July 1, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) rescinded its order requiring COVID-19 testing for agricultural employees. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) issued updated emergency rules on June 22 that align with federal guidance. These rules allow employers to use their best judgment in determining whether to maintain daily health screenings, face covering requirements and social distancing requirements.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has issued a new agricultural worker testing order, replacing the August 2020 order in its entirety. The June 2021 order includes a new definition for agricultural work, clarifies and defines certain terms, expands the testing age requirement to 13, and exempts fully vaccinated new workers/residents from testing requirement unless they have COVID-19 symptoms or suspected exposure.

The June 2021 order continues to apply to employers with over 20 workers on site at a time and to housing operators. However, while the employer definition continues to include employers of migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, and owners/operators of meat, poultry, and egg processing plants, the order no longer expressly includes greenhouse operators. Rather, the order now includes a blanket term of “all owners and operators of agricultural operations” with “agricultural” defined as “work involving the handling of plants or animals that are destined for consumption.” “On site” is now defined as “on property owned or operated by an agricultural employer.” 

Testing is now required for workers/residents 13 and older (previously 18 and older) unless fully vaccinated without symptoms or exposure. 

Employer Requirements

  • Test new workers before beginning work unless worker is fully vaccinated and does not have principal symptoms of COVID-19.
    • If unvaccinated worker declines testing, cannot work until negative test result or 14 days isolation has passed without exhibiting principal symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Test any worker with principal symptoms of COVID-19 or who has suspected exposure to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.

Housing Owner/Operator Requirements

  • Test newly arriving residents within 48 hours after arrival, unless individual is fully vaccinated and not exhibiting the principal symptoms of COVID-19 or has already been tested within 72 hours just prior to arrival. A second test is required 10-14 days later unless fully vaccinated.
  • Test resident with principal symptoms of COVID-19 or suspected exposure regardless of vaccination status.
  • To greatest extent possible, house new residents in separate unit from current residents for CDC recommended time (currently 14 days) unless fully vaccinated. If cannot house separately, new residents, regardless of vaccination status, should wear face mask at all times during initial 14 days unless eating, drinking, personal hygiene activities, or cannot medically tolerate mask.

Definitions

Fully vaccinated means:

  • Person has received second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and two weeks has passed since second dose, or
  • Person has received one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine and at least two weeks has passed.

Principal symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • At least one of following: fever, uncontrolled cough, atypical new onset of shortness of breath, or
  • At least two of the following not explained by known condition: loss of taste or smell, muscle aches, sore throat, severe headache, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain.

Exposure means:

  • Being within two meters of infected person for at least 15 minutes within a 24 hours period starting from two days before illness (or positive test if asymptomatic) until time individual is isolated

Vaccination status can be verified by:

  • Employer’s own record reflecting worker receipt of vaccine through onsite event, or
  • Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MICR) or other official immunization record from local health department, hospital, pharmacy, health system, doctor’s office that includes name, DOB, medical record number or other unique number linked to individual, or
  • Valid CDC vaccination card

Reporting Requirements

Employers and housing operators may conduct testing directly with antigen test kits provided by MDHHS/MDARD and should contact housing inspector or MDHHS-Migrant-Affairs@michigan.gov. Employers and housing operators must report test results to patient and to MDHHS.

Records of testing conducted must be maintained for one year and may be reviewed by MDARD during inspection, license renewal or by MDARD or MDHHS at their discretion.

If worker tests positive for COVID-19, employers must:

  • Exclude worker from work until meets current CDC return-to-work criteria
  • Exclude unvaccinated workers from work who had exposure to person
  • Make reasonable efforts to connect worker with state/local resources to assist with support/food/basic needs
  • Follow CDC guidance regarding cleaning, etc.
  • Within 24 hours, notify local health department and MDHHS Office of Migrant Affairs MDHHS-Migrant-Affairs@michigan.gov

If you have any questions about the new testing order affecting agricultural employers, please contact Kim Clarke at kaclarke@varnumlaw.com or 616/336-6441, or Kristiana Coutu at kmcoutu@varnumlaw.com or 269/553-3547.

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