Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday new safeguards for California workers who face the greatest risk of COVID-19, including agricultural and farmworkers. In addition to support for workers to isolate and quarantine, the governor unveiled an education campaign for workers and employers. He also committed to working with the Legislature to expand critical protections like paid sick leave.
“When people ask, as they often do, where are we seeing the spread – this is where we’re seeing spread: the essential workforce, disproportionately represented by the Latinx community,” the governor said.
Isolation and quarantine are proven public health interventions fundamental to reducing COVID-19 transmission. Many who contract COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms, do not require hospitalization, and can isolate at home. Providing safe, suitable places for isolation outside a home can help stop the spread to other household members. This is especially important for people who live in multigenerational households.
The state will allocate existing federal funds to local public health departments and community-based organizations to assist with supportive services for isolation and quarantine.
A new program, Housing for the Harvest, provides temporary isolation spaces for agricultural and farmworkers who test positive or were exposed to the virus. This program will operate in partnership with counties and local partners in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Imperial Valley—the regions with the highest number of agricultural workers.
The outreach and education campaign will expand its reach to employers, to workers and to their families to inform them of ways they can break the cycle of spread and reduce their risk for COVID-19 at work, at home, and in their community. This effort will leverage the public service media campaign and build a more comprehensive community engagement strategy to include work with community-based organizations, promotoras, labor unions and worker advocacy groups to directly reach workers.
The governor also said he will work with the Legislature to expand paid sick. Similarly, workers’ compensation access helps ensure that front-line workers can quarantine and stay home from work when ill.
As California businesses work to reopen, a new Employer Playbook released Friday will guide them on how to provide a clean environment for workers and customers to reduce risk. Education efforts led by the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) will provide information and support to businesses to help them come into and stay in compliance, including technical assistance and a model training program. Additionally, the state will provide employers information to share with their workers regarding health insurers’ COVID-19 testing coverage and eligibility requirements.
Cal/OSHA and the Labor Commissioner’s Office have targeted investigations in high-risk industries, where the state has seen the most workplace outbreaks. Requiring employers to report outbreaks to their local health departments will help track county transmission. The goveror will work with the Legislature to establish this authority.