U.S.: Covid-19 slams Washington’s apple and cherry pickers

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U.S.: Covid-19 slams Washington’s apple and cherry pickers

It isn’t just meatpacking plants that have been hotspots for Covid-19 to spread within the agricultural industry.

In Washington state, reports Jesse Newman at the Wall Street Journal, apple and sweet cherry farms are struggling with COVID-19 in a number of ways. The local industry is facing problems establishing and maintaining safe operations, caring for the infected, and is struggling to get enough labor. 

Washington state is the country’s leading producer of both apples and sweet cherries. (Sweet cherries are classified differently from tart cherries; the big table cherries like Bing and Rainier are both sweet cherries.) In mid-summer, Washingtonian farmers are fully operational, maintaining trees, harvesting, and packing fruit, and in this particular mid-summer, none of that is easy.

Newman’s reporting reveals spikes in positive COVID-19 testing in packing facilities and temporary housing. In this sector of the industry, as in many others, workers are often migrants, and live in ad-hoc housing facilities including motels, dormitories, and sometimes tents while they exhaust the season.

This week, reports Gregory Scruggs at the Washington Post, Yakima County, where much of these farms are located, tested as the county with the second-highest infection rate on the West Coast. The county now has 20 percent of the state’s positive tests, and only 3.2 percent of its population. 

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