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State updates emergency rules for ag worker housing

by Staff report
| May 11, 2021 1:00 AM

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries and the state Department of Health on Friday updated emergency rules intended to protect laborers living in temporary farmworker housing from the coronavirus, L&I announced.

The updated rules took effect Sunday. The previous emergency temporary worker housing rules expired Saturday.

An official, seven-page document detailing the new rules for housing operators for workers living at agricultural sites can be found at https://www.lni.wa.gov/rulemaking-activity/AO21-11/2111CR103EAdoption.pdf. They cover training, physical distancing, masking, cleaning and sanitation, and ventilation.

The latest update is the third since the first emergency rules began, in May 2020, according to L&I.

The requirement for workers living together in group shelters and using bunk beds to be separated into groups of 15 or fewer did not change, L&I stated.

The key updates to the rules concern medical monitoring and fully vaccinated workers living in group shelters.

Regarding medical monitoring, formerly, a licensed health care provider was needed for in-person visits twice a day to workers in isolation for COVID-19 exposure, L&I stated. The new rule states a licensed health care provider must visit isolated workers once a day in person or through telemedicine. Both types of visits require a review of symptoms, temperature and pulse oximetry. For virtual visits, employers must provide a working telephone and interpreter services.

In the previous rules, vaccinations were not addressed, L&I stated. The new rule says multiple fully vaccinated workers living in group shelters may share common areas at the same time while maintaining physical distancing and mask use. Fully vaccinated workers may travel in a single vehicle while wearing appropriate face coverings.

The previous rule regarding quarantine said workers living in a group shelter must either be quarantined or tested for COVID-19 if one member of the group develops symptoms. The new rule clarifies that all workers must be quarantined when exposed to COVID-19 unless fully vaccinated, L&I stated.