Feb 11, 2022Preparing for 2022 season, coping with COVID-19 in Salinas Valley
With most of the fruit and vegetable production coming from other regions, this time of year in the Salinas Valley, California, is all about preparation. What does that look like at the Grower Shipper Association in 2022?
Part of the preparation process includes a review and evaluation of what we did well in 2021 and what we can do better in 2022 to advance our mission. While GSA is exceptionally proud of our work to protect farm workers and the community from severe illness caused by COVID-19, the new virus variant has once again shown us how relentless and persistent it is.
We must recognize that this virus may soon become endemic and requires a shift in long-term strategies while we simultaneously work to keep supplies of fruits and vegetables moving throughout the country for consumers.
Recently, GSA secured and disseminated thousands of rapid COVID tests to help employers provide this hard-to-find tool to their employees and we are working with local agencies to obtain N95 masks for ag employees. We continue to host clinics with our partner, Clinica de Salud, to provide vaccines or boosters to employees currently in Salinas as well as with our desert-region partner, Regional Center for Border Health, for those in Yuma. And, as we have for the last two years, the Grower Shipper Association (GSA) secures and furnishes quarantined housing in the Salinas Valley and desert region for employees who have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms so they can rest and recover away from family and friends.
We are also providing GSA members with continual updates to the ever-changing COVID workplace laws and regulations to help them stay in compliance with state and federal worker safety mandates.
While some infectious disease experts express hope that this variant and the surge will soon peak and recede, what comes next is not fully known which is why it remains incumbent on GSA to plan to provide resources and support to members in advance of the beginning of spring harvest to continue to protect the lives of essential workers.
As 2022 moves forward, GSA will address and explore solutions in the areas of food safety, effective pest and disease management strategies, affordable housing, water quality and labor as we work to ensure the economic viability of our industry and preserve the health of our communities.
Sometimes it’s hard to stay optimistic as we see this pandemic rage on and we’re challenged by so many issues which are exacerbated by this virus. However, we must keep moving forward because we are growing the fruits and vegetables consumers rely on for better health, improved immune function and longer lives. This makes our products, our farmers and farm workers invaluable to this nation – so we carry on.