Inslee orders more COVID-19 testing for farm workers

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday updated his coronavirus proclamation so that it requires agricultural employers to test their workforce broadly when health officials identify an outbreak that passes certain thresholds.

Since the governor first issued his proclamation on May 28, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Washington has increased from 21,138 to 67,721, an average of more than 500 new cases per day.

Many of the new cases are appearing at farms and food-packing facilities, where employees often work, travel, and live together in close contact.

“From the data, we know that people of color have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, and while we have much work to do to address that, this is one step in the right direction,″ Inslee said.

In addition, Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman ordered Gebbers Farms, located in Okanogan County, to test all its employees in coming weeks. Gebbers Farms has suffered a significant outbreak of COVID-19, including the deaths of three employees.

“We call upon all agricultural employers to join us in proactively safeguarding against workplace outbreaks,″ Inslee said. ``When employers are unable to do so on their own, local health jurisdictions and state Department of Health will be ready to intervene.”