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Michigan rescinds mandatory COVID-19 testing for ag workers

July 2, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan rescinded a 10-month-old order requiring coronavirus testing of agricultural and migrant workers, citing increased vaccinations and a lower number of infections.

The state Department of Health and Human Services’ measure had taken effect last summer after nearly a dozen outbreaks at farms and food-processing plants.

“The most important tool we have is the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and we encourage everyone to join the nearly 62% of Michiganders who have already been vaccinated as soon as possible,” director Elizabeth Hertel said Friday in a statement announcing the order’s termination, which occurred Thursday.

She said Michigan recently awarded contracts totaling nearly $60 million to boost vaccine access for high-risk populations and settings, including more than 28,000 migrant and seasonal employees.

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Separate emergency agriculture rules remain intact. They require labor housing camps to have coronavirus preparedness and response plans, to notify heath authorities of cases and to quarantine infected individuals.

The move came more than a week after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer scaled back COVID-19 workplace safety rules, keeping mask and other requirements only in health care settings.

Michigan on Friday reported 101 new confirmed cases and 0 deaths in the most recent 24-hour period. Infections are at their lowest levels since March 2020.

The governor said that as of 8 a.m., nearly 465,000 vaccinated people had registered for multimillion-dollar sweepstakes drawings that were announced Thursday in a bid to boost vaccinations. Almost 24,000 12- to 17-year-olds had signed up for the chance to win four-year prepaid college tuition contracts.

It was too early to tell if the prizes were actually enticing people to get vaccinated.

State health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said health providers have 24 hours to report, so there is a lag. The holiday weekend also could impact vaccinations, she said.

“We might not see changes until next week,” Sutfin said in an email.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00