After a recent spike in COVID-19 cases the Madison County Health Department revealed Saturday that the number of active cases in the county dropped from 131 to 79.
Health officials said a major contributor to the active number was Green Empire Farms, Oneida. The large greenhouse in Madison County became a source of concern after 87 employees tested positive for COVID-19. Many of the workers are staying in area hotels.
Madison County health officials did another walk through of the Green Empire Farms. After conducting a thorough investigation of the site, it found that the facility does have many protocols in place to limit the possible spread of COVID-19. According to the health department those protocols include employees taking their temperatures when they arrive to work, hand sanitizer, boot sanitization stations at the entrance, spaced out working stations, limits to the number of people on break.
The Health Department was aware at the end of March that some contractors were living in the local hotels that worked in various capacities at the greenhouses. The MCDOH is responsible for permitting hotels, and in that capacity these hotels met those requirements. We were not of the understanding then that they were being used as migrant farmworker housing. Because we permit hotels, we had initial conversations with hotel staff about proper cleaning protocols of common areas and social distancing. The focus at the MCDOH was understanding COVID-19, educating the public about the virus, and working with those who tested positive for the virus.
The Health Department became more aware of the living conditions when positive cases started to arise on April 30, 2020. The priority then was to find out how far the virus had spread. We wanted to ensure we were getting everyone who needed it, the proper health care. Proper cleaning instructions were given to the hotel staff, cleaning supplies were given to those living in the rooms so that cleaning staff does not have to enter COVID-19 positive rooms, and we have ensured that individuals are fed.
The Madison County Health Department is working with the New York State Department of Health to ensure workers are in living in conditions that adhere to the New York State Migrant Farmworker Housing Regulations.
The County says it’s also making sure impacted hotels are cleaned efficiently.