News Americas, SHOREHAM, VT., Weds. Oct. 7, 2020: Twenty-six Caribbean migrant farm workers tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont this week.
The Vermont Health Department say the migrant farmworkers worked at the family-owned Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, and are here on H2-A Temporary Agricultural Workers visas and are from Jamaica.
Health officials are working to contain and trace the outbreak but said all the men live in five housing camps at the farm, owned by Bill Suhr.
“These Jamaican men that are here for harvest are absolutely a critical labour force for ensuring the apple crop that goes into the building behind me which is around 6 million pounds of fruit and feeds Vermont year-round,” Suhr told WCAX News.
The health department’s contact tracing team says they’ve reached out to everyone who they believe was exposed and another round of testing is expected later this week.
The farm posted on Facebook: “Feeling gratitude for our amazing community and so many who have reached out with kindness and concern. Our crew is feeling well, and individual who tested positive for Covid-19 seems to be recovering quickly with mild symptoms. This experience is a reminder for all of us to appreciate the many hands that feed us that are often far from home and family.”
The H-2A temporary agricultural workers program – often called the H-2A visa program – helps American farmers fill employment gaps by hiring workers from other countries. Depending on the type of work needed, temporary or seasonal agricultural work can happen on farms, plantations, ranches, nurseries, ranges, greenhouses, orchards, or other similar locations.
Vermont now as 1,821 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 58 deaths.