COVID Housing Guidance For H2A Workers in 2022
As farmers prepare for H2A workers to arrive for the 2022 season, it is important to know the guidelines for housing them as the COVID virus continues to spread. MFBF met with the state Monitor Advocate and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to confirm any changes to the program.
H2A housing inspections are now being done at least 45 days in advance of the date of need. Paperwork is due to the U.S. Department of Labor 30 days prior to their start date, which includes a passed inspection. For employers who have used their housing before, the inspections will be virtual this year. However, for new employers or those with new facilities, the inspections will need to be in-person.
Most of the requirements from last season will remain in place:
- Updated Control Plans will be required
There are three notable changes to the housing requirements that are different from 2021:
- Bunk beds will be allowed this year as long as workers sleep head-to-foot and the occupants are fully vaccinated
- Workers from multiple farms can stay in one facility as long as they are all fully vaccinated.
- It is recommended (but not required) that beds be set 6 feet apart
Fully vaccinated means they have had at least 2 shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or 1 of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and at least two weeks have passed since the final vaccine. At this time, there are no requirements regarding boosters.
Due to a shortage of vaccines in Jamaica, workers may arrive unvaccinated. They will be required to be vaccinated. Until two weeks pass, these workers will need to isolate, and wear a mask until two weeks have passed from their final dose. They may only work if they can be isolated from other workers and the public.
If you have questions about the vaccination status of Jamaican workers, you should contact Debby Hutchinson to confirm. Her email is [email protected].
Again, it is important to note that all employers must have a control plan in place, even if their workers are fully vaccinated. The control plan requirements are the same as in 2021. As part of that plan, all employers should be aware that under both federal and state law if one or more workers in your labor housing contract COVID, you are required to report it to your local Board of Health and should report it to Jose Ocasio, the Massachusetts Monitor Advocate.
If you have further questions on these guidelines, you should reach out to Jose Ocasio at [email protected] or 617-626-5587.