COVID outbreak among migrant workers at Vermont farm

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 1:19 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2020 at 6:44 AM EDT
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SHOREHAM, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Health Department on Monday reported 33 new cases of the coronavirus, the largest one-day increase since June 3.

Most of them are in Addison County where health officials are working to contain and trace an outbreak of 26 new cases at an apple orchard there.

State health officials say staffers at Champlain Orchards were following CDC guidelines.

The owners say the 26 are migrant farmworkers who live in the same housing facility. And they say they are feeling well right now.

State health officials say the workers recently completed a two-week quarantine after coming to Vermont from Jamacia on Sept. 14.

These 26 are all part of the H2A visa program and come to work at the orchard.

Health department officials say the workers are in quarantine now and that there is no risk of spreading COVID-19 to the public.

Owner Bill Suhr told WCAX News it’s critical everyone is transparent to remove the stigma.

“Let’s just remember as a community where our food is coming from. These Jamaican men that are here for harvest are absolutely a critical labor force for ensuring the apple crop that goes into the building behind me which is around 6 million pounds of fruit and feeds Vermont year-round,” Suhr said.

Right now, there are about 55 workers at the farm in five housing camps.

The health department’s contact tracing team says they’ve reached out to everyone who they believe was exposed.

Another round of testing is expected later this week.

Suhr also stresses that this is a lesson for everyone because people can carry COVID-19 without even knowing it.

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