America’s Pig Farmers Are Part of the Nation’s Essential Critical Infrastructure.
As assigned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the nation’s food and agriculture sector is one of 16 critical areas for our nation during this
national emergency related to COVID-19. As such, the President has asked America’s farmers and those in all parts of the food chain to continue to work as normally as possible to help ensure that our domestic food supply remains uninterrupted.
Further, the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines State:
“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”
Responsible Decision-making Is Everyone’s Responsibility
With all of this information in mind from the federal level, it’s important to always do what’s in the best interest for the health of yourself, your family, your employees, your community and your animals. Given this, please use the following FAQs to assist during this time.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Is there a policy/protocol for on-farm entry during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- What is the best practice to know when to let an employee back on the farm following a known COVID-19 disease diagnosis and isolation?
- What are the best practices for hiring/onboarding/interviewing potential employees?
- What are the best practices before allowing new or existing employees to come onto a farm? Is it legal/feasible to require temperature checks for employees?
- What mental health resources are available?
- How is the Pork Checkoff ensuring that pork demand doesn’t wane during this time?
- How do I know what product to use to disinfect for the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2)? What is the protocol for cleaning or disinfecting if positive exposure is suspected on-farm or in the home or office?
- What if I don’t see the disinfectant that I have on the farm on the EPA list of approved products known to be effective against the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2)? Can I still use something like household bleach?
- Can pigs get COVID-19 and transmit the virus to humans?
- Can dogs/cats or other companion animals get COVID-19 and transmit it to humans?
Question: Is there a policy/protocol for on-farm entry during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- General Visitors: At times of heightened biosecurity needs such as now, no general visitors should enter a production facility for the well-being of all farmworkers, their families and the community. If the visit intent is for educational reasons, you can direct them to a virtual pig barn experience, such as this one from the North Carolina Pork Council.
- Employees: Any employee should stay home if sick for any reason. If an employee has been in a high-risk area known for COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone who has, they should self-quarantine for at least 14 days per recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Question: What is the best practice to know when to let an employee back on the farm following a known COVID-19 disease diagnosis and isolation?
- As of March 23, 2020, the CDC’s guidance following a known disease occurrence of COVID-19, is employees are okay to lift their isolation and return to work if the following conditions are met:
- It has been at least seven days since the onset of their disease.
- They have been fever-free for at least three days without the use of fever-reducing medication.
- They are currently free of any symptoms of disease.
- Alternatively, with improving signs, the resolution of fever and two negative tests 24 hours apart, the isolation also can be lifted. This approach is considered the test-based strategy approach and is dependent upon the availability of test kits.
- For more information on the terms for lifting the isolation requirement for COVID-19, see CDC’s guidance for discontinuation of home isolation.
Question: What are the best practices for hiring/onboarding/interviewing potential employees?
- For now, virtual interviews are the best practice. However, when an in-person meeting is needed or when the new hire first starts to work, know what questions are legal to ask and which are not. According to Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, which also has this COVID-19 Resource Page, good rules to remember include:
- The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits employers from conducting medical examinations of applicants before a conditional offer of employment is made (including taking temperature).
- If a conditional offer of employment has been made, the ADA permits employers to conduct a pre-employment medical examination (which could include taking temperature), provided
all employees in the same job category are treated the same.
- Without requesting specific medical information, however, you can request anyone exhibiting symptoms, feeling sick or recently exposed to someone testing positive/presumed positive or is in a high-risk scenario (such as recent international travel) remain at home and not visit the facility.
- As an employer, communicate the necessary health requirements to work on the farm, including posting signs at facility entrances with instructions for individuals with a fever or symptoms on how to notify those in charge before they enter a farm facility. Post on your farm’s website as well if possible.
Question: What are the best practices before allowing new or existing employees to come onto a farm? Is it legal/feasible to require temperature checks for employees?
- Typically, implementing employee temperature checks is not advisable. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) revised guidance on March 18, 2020, and due to the community spread of COVID-19, employers may measure employees’ body temperature. See the EEOC COVID-19 Resource Page for more information.
- Because taking a temperature may be considered a medical examination, it is recommended producers use medical personnel to do so, for both risk avoidance and perception reasons. Alternatively, use someone in human resources or another management position.
- Because this is a medical examination, the results need to be kept confidential, which makes a checkpoint difficult. A workaround could be having a drive-thru checkpoint, which also would avoid individuals congregating in one space. As such, it’s recommended that no records be created for normal temperatures so you don’t have to worry about maintaining the confidentiality of medical records.
- The CDC is advising that 100.4 degrees is a cutoff point for sending employees home, but some employers are rounding down to 100 degrees. Note that not all individuals testing positive have a fever. Individuals who feel sick but not feverish should stay home, as well as those who have been recently exposed, as discussed above.
Question: What mental health resources are available?
Some suggestions for mental health resources include the AgriSafe Network and the Rural Mental Health Hub. Additionally, several universities have resources available, such as those available from the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center at the University of Minnesota, Colorado State University Extension and Iowa State University Extension.Back to the Top
Question: How is the Pork Checkoff ensuring that pork demand doesn’t wane during this time?
- It’s clear that for the foreseeable future, consumers will be shopping, cooking and eating much differently. The Pork Checkoff has the opportunity to get preparation, versatility and nutrition information into the hands of consumers as they look to cook more meals at home. It also gives us an opportunity to communicate pork’s value, as consumers look to stretch their food dollars due to economic uncertainty or having kids home from school, or both.
- Immediately, we’re re-purposing existing digital assets, deploying them on our social media channels and sharing them with processors and retailers to amplify these messages on their own digital platforms. We’re also leveraging our partnership with Google to better understand how consumer search behavior is changing and making sure our ads are appearing at the relevant time when searches around food and meal preparation are taking place.
- Longer-term, we’re identifying areas where we need to develop new digital content and are shifting resources to ensure that we can move and launch those quickly. We expect to increase our consumer-facing social media posts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by 20 percent during this time of change.
- On the retail side, the Pork Board channel marketing team remains engaged with major retailers to help problem solve as needed. There’s plenty of pork being produced and in cold-storage, but the changes in consumer purchasing behavior have caused a short-term hiccup. In some cases, the Pork Checkoff is helping connect retailers with foodservice brokers, so pork that was originally intended for restaurants can be redirected to help fill retailers’ immediate needs.
Question: How do I know what product to use to disinfect for the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2)? What is the protocol for cleaning or disinfecting if positive exposure is suspected on-farm or in the home or office?
- Be sure to review the EPA list of approved disinfectants. To search for a specific product, type in the EPA registration number found on every approved product label. The agency will be updating the list regularly, so check every week for new approvals.
- NOTE: Alternative brand names have the same EPA registration number as the primary product. The EPA registration number of a primary product consists of two sets of numbers separated by a hyphen. For example, EPA Reg. No. 12345-12. The first set of numbers refers to the company identification number, and the second set represents the product number.
- Follow the guidance from CDC on cleaning and disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces in your home if someone is sick. Focus on high-touch contact areas, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
- Review the New England Journal of Medicine correspondence regarding virus persistence on surfaces.
Question: What if I don’t see the disinfectant that I have on the farm on the EPA list of approved products known to be effective against the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2)? Can I still use something like household bleach?
- To ensure that the product is effective and approved for use, you should only use disinfectants on the official EPA list. Other products may appear on the list in the future.
- Sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in products such as Clorox products) is on the approved EPA list of products known to be effective against the virus. Although not all bleach products are EPA-approved for SARS-CoV-2, CDC does say that household bleach, when diluted properly, may be effective against coronaviruses.
- As with any disinfectant, use it as directed on the label to ensure efficacy against any and all pathogens.
Question: Can pigs get COVID-19 and transmit the virus to humans?
- There is currently no evidence that pigs can become naturally infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) or transmit it to humans. There is no reliable research in the United States that would suggest the widespread distribution of the virus is affecting food animals and early research from China suggests it may be challenging to clinically infect some animals, including pigs. What the available data clearly shows is the virus is primarily transmitted by human-to-human contact.
- The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety also has assessed risks associated with COVID-19, such as the potential to cross the species barrier. In addition, there are a number of research projects underway in the U.S. and worldwide looking into the virus. We, along with other animal and public health experts, are following these studies and look forward to learning from the results in the coming weeks.
Question: Can dogs/cats or other companion animals get COVID-19 and transmit it to humans?
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mostly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
- Knowledge about how the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is rapidly changing every day. The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety also has assessed risks associated with COVID-19, such as the potential to cross the species barrier. We are monitoring the issue very closely and staying in close touch with researchers to provide updates when available.