RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks for farmworkers by delivering critical personal protection equipment to agricultural workers statewide.

This week, NCDHHS says it will deliver over 900,000 infection control supplies to North Carolina Cooperative Extension county centers across the state for distribution to farms and agricultural operations. 

The deliveries include masks, hand sanitizers, and cloth face coverings for workers to take home.

“Agriculture is vital to our economy and food supply, and it is critical that we protect farmworkers and their families from this virus,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Farmworkers are essential workers, a release from the Cooper's office said, and it is imperative that they are protected.  

“Many of our farmworkers live in group housing, putting them at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. Providing masks is one way we are helping to protect workers,” NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said.

Over 30 counties across North Carolina have been selected to receive the first deliveries, including:

  • Alamance
  • Alleghany
  • Ashe
  • Avery
  • Bladen
  • Columbus
  • Cumberland
  • Duplin
  • Durham
  • Edgecombe
  • Forsyth
  • Franklin
  • Granville
  • Greene
  • Guilford
  • Harnett
  • Henderson
  • Johnston
  • Lee
  • Lenoir
  • Lincoln
  • Martin
  • Mecklenburg
  • Nash
  • Pender
  • Pitt
  • Robeson
  • Sampson
  • Wake
  • Wayne
  • Wilson

 “I am grateful that farmworkers and farmers have been prioritized for these much-needed materials,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “The health of our farmers and farmworkers is very important because we all rely on them every day.”

Previous and ongoing actions that North Carolina has taken to protect farmworker include:

  • Releasing the Interim Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidance for Migrant Farmworkers, their Employers, and Housing Providers.
  • Providing targeted funding to farmworker health programs to purchase protective equipment and infection control supplies and support additional staff needed to support COVID-19 response efforts.
  • Providing virtual trainings and webinars for farmworker health programs and other health agencies regarding COVID-19 prevention and outbreak response.
  • Providing virtual webinars for farmers to prepare and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks
  • Developed a toolkit of COVID-19 educational materials targeting farm workers and other essential workers.
  • Migrant outbreak response team supporting collaboration between health departments, federally qualified health centers, and farmworker health programs to respond to outbreaks and provide patient support and health care.
  • Launched an internet connectivity project to support internet access at migrant housing to facilitate access to health information, screenings, and virtual medical visits.
  • NCDOL issued “Farmworkers and the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Temporary Worker COVID-19 Guidance.” NCDOL also implemented procedures to approve temporary, emergency isolation and quarantine housing for migrant farmworkers.
  • NCDA&CS released “The Necessity of PPE for Agricultural Operations” and “Notice of Temporary Agricultural Worker Bulk Purchase Authorization" for groceries for farms housing workers, 
  • N.C. State Extension launched a COVID-19 Resources and Information website, including educational materials for farmers and farmworkers, to support N.C. agribusinesses throughout the pandemic.

A list of congregate living settings with outbreaks can also be found on the NCDHHS website.

NCDHHS is partnering with N.C. Cooperative Extension, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), the N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL) and the N.C. Agromedicine Institute to expedite the delivery plan and raise awareness about this resource in the farming community.