SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Produce company Tanimura & Antle tells KION that one of its employees has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was sent home to quarantine.
The company said everyone who came into contact with the employee has been tested or is in self-quarantine. Tanimura & Antle said all of the employees who were sent home are still receiving their standard rate of pay while they are being quarantined.
As a result of businesses closing due to a Shelter in Place order, Tanimura & Antle said it has seen a reduction in demand and pricing because foodservice orders have decreased, but said it is seeing a consistent buying trend.
The company said it has taken several steps to protect employees and those they come in contact with from COVID-19. It said it already required workers to wear gloves in the field, sanitize often and use handwashing stations, but now employees are also required to wear masks, all travel is suspended, employees who have traveled by plane are asked to work from home, tours are suspended, touchless temperature readers are available onsite and the company created an internal task force among other measures.
Tanimura & Antle said it has also increased employee benefit programs for those who are most at risk.
While no information has been released regarding where in the company the infected employee worked, Monterey County said they are preparing for things to get worse in the fields.
“The county is also collaborating with the agricultural industry to address what we anticipate is going to be a surge in COVID-positive patients from that community of people,” Monterey County Emergency Services Manager Gerry Malais said.
Agriculture is the biggest industry in Monterey County, and these essential workers remain in the elements. Last month, county agencies released safety guidelines to protect farmworkers. They asked companies to make sure employees wash their hands multiple times daily, can work while staying six feet apart, and sanitize work spaces frequently.
Tanimura & Antle declined to speak outside of their statement, but say they've implemented many of these practices, including requiring employees to wear gloves and masks in the field.
The United Farm Workers Union said some facilities have made improvements, but things have not been perfect. The union is not naming names, but claim some facilities are not following the rules.
“Companies like that…they are not going to change from one day to another. Because they don’t have the culture of doing that,” UFW Regional Director Lauro Barajas said.
“It’s in agriculture’s interest that these are being implemented, that we’re taking care of workers, that we’re not bringing workers who are sick to the work site,” Monterey County District 1 Supervisor Luis Alejo said.
KION reached out to the Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner about the expected surge of COVID-19 cases, but did not hear back.