KLA staff has fielded numerous calls where continuity of agricultural operations is facing serious issues in Kansas. In an effort to address these matters, KLA Chief Executive Officer Matt Teagarden sent a letter urging Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Lee Norman, MD, to review and implement for agricultural workers the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) interim guidance for implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers who may have had an exposure to coronavirus. The guidance clearly states, “To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.”
Teagarden highlighted that in some instances, local health officials had used the CDC guidance to allow potentially exposed agricultural workers to continue to work so long as they were asymptomatic and adhered to the guidance. However, this has not been the case across the board. In the letter, Teagarden stated, “Some local health officials are reporting that KDHE is recommending the quarantine of certain agricultural workers who are still asymptomatic because KDHE does not recognize the agricultural sector as critical infrastructure.” Food and agricultural industries were deemed essential critical infrastructure early on by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
While KLA understands human health is of the utmost importance, the letter explained that agricultural operations should not be forced to cease or dramatically reduce operations during this critical time. Teagarden stated in the letter that KLA believes the CDC guidance “strikes the necessary balance between human health and continuity of critical infrastructure.”