Michigan has ordered coronavirus testing of agricultural and food processing workers after nearly a dozen outbreaks at farms and slaughterhouses in recent weeks.

Under the emergency order, meat, poultry, and egg facilities––as well as greenhouses and employers that hire migrant workers who don’t live on-site––will all have to test current and new employees for the virus.

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Slaughterhouses have become hotbeds for coronavirus, and meat companies had to temporarily shut down. In the meat processing plants that remain open, companies have failed to provide adequate protective gear or enforce social distancing rules, leading to another surge in cases. According to a ProPublica review, more than 33,000 coronavirus cases have been tied to meat and poultry industry, and at least 132 meatpacking workers have died.

“The men and women who work in our fields and food processing plants are at particular risk for COVID-19, and they need and deserve protection,” Robert Gordon, director of Michigan’s health department, said in a statement. “Today’s order will help to reduce the spread of COVID in communities across Michigan and reduce the pandemic’s disparate impact on Latinos.”

The new order has particular provisions to protect immigrant workers who make up a significant part of the food sector. Migrant housing camp operators must do initial baseline testing of all residents age 18 and older. New residents must be tested within 48 hours of their arrival, be provided separate housing, and receive a second test 10 to 14 days after arriving.

Testing must be implemented no later than August 24, according to the order. The state will offer grants to help fund testing and mitigate other virus costs. If Michigan’s testing requirement successfully reduces cases, other states could look to issue similar orders to help protect essential food and agricultural workers.

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Read more about the meat industry and the coronavirus:

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