Interim Guidance for Migrant Labor Camp Operators and Employees Regarding COVID-19

Interim Guidance for Migrant Labor Camp Operators and Employees Regarding COVID-19

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As essential personnel, migrant agriculture employees provide a critical service through the planting, cultivating, harvesting and packaging of the many crops grown throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. In response to the growing concern regarding the safety of migrant labor camp employees and the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has summarized key Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations as well as VDH‐specific recommendations and additional information for migrant labor camp employees and their employer(s) in Virginia.

Migrant labor camp operators should follow applicable federal, state or local law/regulation in conjunction with this guidance to the extent possible. 

About COVID-19

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by infection with SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and in some cases the disease is fatal. Some people may have no symptoms, but can still spread the virus.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and may include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

How COVID-19 Spreads

COVID-19 is generally spread in two ways:

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet or 2 meters).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Steps Migrant Labor Camp Operators Can Take to Reduce Employee Exposure to COVID-19

This section describes basic steps that migrant camp operators and employees can take to reduce the risk of  exposure to COVID-19.

Be Prepared

Keep in Contact with Community Partners

● Maintain contact information for your local healthcare facilities, local health department, and other local/state agencies for assistance.
● Develop a plan to house sick employees away from healthy employees. Consult your local health department prior to moving sick employees to a location other than the migrant labor camp.

Plan Accordingly

VDH recommends migrant labor camp owners develop a plan for healthcare support if a employee becomes ill.  Most people with COVID-19 develop mild to moderate illness, and do not require medical care. In these situations, employers can self-isolate at home.  If a employee needs medical care, a healthcare facility OTHER THAN a hospital emergency room should be used unless a employee is severely ill.  If a employee needs care through a healthcare facility or hospital, call that facility or hospital prior to arrival to describe the situation.

● Plan for absences to allow sick employees to stay home when possible.
● Ensure sufficient stocks of hygiene supplies, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and personal care items are available to employees to prevent unnecessary trips of large groups of employees to retail stores.
● Provide personal protective equipment (facemasks and disposable gloves) that may be needed if an employee develops symptoms.
o CDC recommends that all people wear a cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
● Prior to employee arrival, separate beds at least 6 feet or 2 meters apart if space allows.
o Arrange bunks so that individuals sleep head to foot.
o Use cloth curtains as barriers between sleeping spaces, ensure they are washed frequently.
● Review the floor plan of the camp facility to identify space to isolate workers who are exposed to COVID-19 or who test positive for COVID-19. Discuss space arrangements with your local health department.
● Prior to employee arrival, post signage in English and the employees’ native language throughout the camp about handwashing and develop a cleaning schedule. (See Education section for signage)
● To avoid overcrowding of dining areas, create a dining schedule and space out dining tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. Consider providing prepared/catered meals from a permitted food establishment such as a mobile food unit or prepared meal service company.
● Well-ventilated living spaces can reduce the potential for transmission. As weather permits, open windows and/or provide mechanical fans to workers.
● Discuss with local faith leaders to provide options for employees to practice their faith while exercising social distance.

Promote Healthy Habits

Employee Monitoring

The employer or the occupational health program administrator is strongly encouraged to monitor symptoms of all employees for 14 days after arrival to the camp. Employers may designate an employee such as supervisor to conduct verbal screening and document responses (see Virginia Department of Health Daily Monitoring Log). Because records of health screenings may need to be maintained per Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s  Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard (29 CFR § 1910.1020), consider the burdens and benefits of documenting individually identifiable results of entry screenings. For questions regarding record retention, please contact Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

If the employer does not have an occupational health program, determine if there are remote occupational health resources (e.g., telemedicine or on-call doctors available via phone) available to assist or provide guidance as necessary.

After the initial 14 days of monitoring, employees shall self-monitor for the remainder of their stay at the migrant labor camp.

Consider utilizing non-contact thermometers such as a temporal thermometer or disposable thermometers. Do not reuse thermometers prior to sanitizing them.

Inform and Encourage Employees: Hygiene and Social Distancing

● Provide signs in English and the employees’ native language with information that reinforces healthy hygiene practices such as:
o Clean hands keep you healthy. Employees are encouraged to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds:
▪ When arriving at work and before they leave work;
▪ Before and after eating or using the toilet;
▪ After close interaction with other persons;
▪ After contacting shared surfaces or tools;
▪ Before and after wearing masks or gloves; and
▪ After blowing nose or sneezing
o Best practices:
▪Cover your mouth and nose when you cough/sneeze with your elbow; avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands; avoid sharing eating utensils, dishes, and cups. Encourage single use utensils, plates, and cups.
▪Ensure that source control items such as cloth facemasks or cloth curtains used as barriers between beds are washed frequently.
o Avoid contact: Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth without cleaning hands first. Avoid physical contact with others.
o Encourage social distancing: Maintain more than 6 feet or 2 meters of distancing between individuals. Discourage group activities. Areas to practice social distancing include:
▪ Recreation Spaces (encourage individual exercise, but not team or group recreation activities)
▪ Dining Areas
▪ Transport (make additional trips to allow for space in transport vehicles, employees sit with at least 6 feet or 2 meters of distance from each other or every other seat)
▪ Living areas (rearrange furniture in living rooms, dens, dining rooms, etc.)

Sanitation Practices and COVID-19

● Ensure employees have access to supplies such as soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, tissues, and lined trash cans. Keep these items in common areas, sleeping areas, and areas where employees eat.
o Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol
o Use EPA-registered disinfectant or household bleach solutions to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Dilute bleach solutions as follows:
▪ 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) or 74 mL bleach per gallon of water or
▪ 4 teaspoons or 20 mL bleach per quart of water
o Maintain regular housekeeping practices such as a schedule to include routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other high touch areas (doorknobs, tables, countertops, bathrooms, and stair railings).
● Disinfect transportation vehicles prior and after transporting employees

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

If the employee has a positive test for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19:
● As soon as an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, provide the individual with a facemask and isolate him or her from others.
o If the employee is at greater risk of developing severe illness (e.g., aged 65 years or older or with an underlying condition such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or weakened immune system), call a healthcare provider.
o If the employee lives in a congregate or shared living space with other employees, ideally provide the employee with a private room with a door to use as an isolation area. If this is not feasible and there are more than one ill worker, then ill workers may be grouped together, but separated from non-ill workers.
▪ Limit movement outside of the isolation area
▪ Assign a dedicated bathroom, ideally attached to the sleeping area
▪ Exclude from activities
▪ Provide meals within the isolation area
▪ If leaving the isolation area is required, the employee should wear a face mask
▪ If the employee requires medical attention, notify the healthcare facility prior to arrival
o Follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection.
o Follow CDC guidance for release from isolation.

o Follow VDH guidance on testing strategies. Targeted testing strategies may help prevent the spread of disease, determine the scope of infection, and determine if additional prevention and control efforts are needed. 

If an employee is a close contact of a known COVID-19 (positive test):
● Implement CDC Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 : CDC guidance provides information on the following:
○ Pre-Screen: Measure employee’s temperature, assess and record symptoms prior to work. Use the Virginia Department of Health Daily Monitoring log, or a similar document, to assist with this monitoring
○ Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self monitor
○Wear a Mask: Employees should wear masks at all times for 14 days of last exposure. Employers should issue face masks or approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages
○Physical Distance: Maintain 6 feet or 2 meters of physical distancing within the camp
○Disinfect and Clean: Clean and disinfect all areas( sleeping areas, common living areas, bathrooms, etc.) routinely
● If possible, a potentially exposed employee should self-quarantine for 14 days since the last potential exposure. If the employee is unable to self-quarantine for 14 days following their last exposure and they do not have symptoms, they may end self-isolation earlier: 1) after 10 days without testing, or 2) after 7 days with a negative PCR or antigen test performed on or after Day 5.
● If the employee has recovered from or been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and had close contact, they might not need to quarantine, but should still watch for symptoms for 14 days after exposure and continue to wear a mask, watch their distance, avoid crowds, and wash their hands. See here for more information.
If the employee has recovered from or been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and had close contact, they might not need to quarantine, but should still watch for symptoms for 14 days after exposure and continue to wear a mask, watch their distance, avoid crowds, and wash their hands. See here for information. 
● If individual quarantine cannot occur, grouping of exposed employees may be necessary
○ Employees who are not ill should not be grouped with employees who are ill
○ If grouping must occur, a large, well-ventilated room is preferable that allows for maintaining at least 6 feet between beds. Temporary barriers between beds (such as curtains) may be used
● If self-quarantine is not possible, the employee may continue to work as long as precautions  as described in CDC guidance are followed (including wearing a face mask/cloth covering for 14 days after last exposure) and worker does not have COVID-19 symptoms

● If  an employee develops symptoms, the employee must stop working immediately and self-isolate. Contact your local health care provider.



1. Virginia Department of Health Daily Monitoring Log

2. Posters and Other Print Resources
a. “Wash Your Hands” English
b. “Wash Your Hands” Spanish
c. “What To Do If You Are Sick?” English
d. “What To Do If You Are Sick?” Spanish
e. “Symptoms of COVID-19” English
f.  “Symptoms of COVID-19” Spanish
3. Health Department Locator
4. Interim Guidance for Business and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control
5. Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, Department of Labor
6. Virginia Department of Health, COVID-19 Response
7. VDH Interim Guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers (non-Healthcare) During Widespread Community Transmission in Virginia
8. CDC Guidance for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Exposure to COVID-19
9. Infographic for Essential Critical Worker Who May Have Exposure to COVID-19
10. VDH Guidance for Migrant Labor Camp Operators, Slides from Webinar (5/13/2020)
11. Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Emergency Temporary Standard Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19

VDH/OEHS Updated 3/26/2021 *Updated Items Are Underlined