COVID Resources for Farmers & Farm Workers

Christmas tree farmers and their employees work year-round to create and harvest a product that is the centerpiece of the holiday season for many families. Farm workers are not just employees, they are friends and family to Christmas tree farmers. Therefore, worker health and safety is the top priority to Christmas tree farmers.

Understanding that the health of our Christmas tree workers is vital to the health of the industry, the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA) has worked to provide health and safety information to Christmas tree growers and their workers since its inception in 1959. And we’ve intensified our efforts to educate our members about appropriate safety measures since the emergence of COVID-19 in March. Local, County and State organizations within North Carolina have been working diligently to keep the Christmas tree community educated about the best practices for prevention and protection during the pandemic and to disseminate information as soon as it is updated. In addition to creating this COVID resource page, the NCCTA has partnered with some of these experts, including local and state health department representatives, in order to assist in providing up-to-date public health and infection control guidance:

  • United States Department of Agriculture – COVID financial assistance program resources
  • North Carolina Nursery Landscape Association – Worker safety webinars
  • National Christmas Tree Association – Educational material and email communications
  • North Carolina Agromedicine Institute – Webinars, emails, and online meetings
  • Johnson Price Sprinkle PA – COVID financial assistance program resources
  • North Carolina State University
  • North Carolina Department of Agriculture
  • North Carolina Farm Bureau
  • North Carolina Growers Association

Scale of Impact

North Carolina Fraser fir Christmas tree production represents over 94% of all species grown in North Carolina, and over 25% of all trees grown in the United States. Fraser fir is native to the Western Appalachian Mountains and only grows in elevations above 2,500 feet. This makes the industry a significant economic contributor to the Western North Carolina economy with over $85 million in sales annually.

LINKS TO RESOURCE ORGANIZATIONS:

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Count on Me NC: NC CES/NC DHHS Joint Campaign with NCRLA and Visit NC

Cornell, NY Cooperative Extension

Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

National Christmas Tree Association

NC Agribusiness Council

NC Agromedicine Institute

NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

NC Department of Commerce

NC Department of Health & Human Services

NC Department of Labor

NC Farmworker Health Program

NC Nursery Landscape Association

NC State University

OSHA

US Department of Labor

SUGGESTED SAFETY GUIDELINES:

How to Protect Yourself
There are actions we can all take to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Show your care for yourself and others by following the 3Ws (Wear/Wash/Wait) when you leave your home and will be around others:

  • Wear a cloth face covering.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Wait at least 6 feet from others.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Keep distance from others who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid crowded areas.
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas such as doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles.

How to Protect Your Workers

  • Contact your local County Cooperative Extension office for personal protective equipment (PPE) including hand sanitizer and masks.
  • If additional workers are hired for harvest, quarantine new worker groups from already established groups for 14 days in separate locations.
  • Follow the guidance and directives regarding community gatherings from your state and local health departments.
  • Encourage social distancing by asking staff and residents to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart from others and wear masks in any shared spaces, including spaces restricted to staff only.
  • Consider how to accommodate those who need to take extra precautions, such as older adults, people with disabilities, and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Limit staff from entering residents’ rooms or living quarters unless it is necessary. Use virtual communications and check-ins (phone or video chat), as appropriate.
  • Limit the presence of non-essential volunteers and visitors in shared areas, when possible.
  • Use physical barriers, such as sneeze guards, or extra tables or chairs, to protect front desk/check-in staff that will have interactions with residents, visitors, and the public.
  • Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies for staff and residents in common areas at your facility, including soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and, if possible, masks that are washed or discarded after each use.
  • Consider any special communications and assistance needs of your staff and residents, including persons with disabilities.
  • Suggest that workers keep up-to-date lists of medical conditions and medications, and periodically check to ensure they have a sufficient supply of their prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • If possible, help workers understand that they can contact their healthcare provider to ask about getting extra maintenance medications to have on hand for a longer period of time, or to consider using a mail-order option for medications.
  • Make sure that workers are aware of serious symptoms of their underlying conditions and of COVID-19 symptoms that require emergency care, and that they know who to ask for help and call 911.
  • Encourage workers who live alone to seek out a “buddy” in the facility who will check on and help care for them and safely make sure they are getting basic necessities, including food and household essentials.
  • Limit the number of workers making trips to the store or use the pickup option instead of everyone going.
  • Check worker temperatures daily.
  • Workers should stay together in the same groups during work and afterwards. For example, have each group ride that arrives together or lives together transported in a separate van with no switching of vehicles throughout the day. Clean vans between uses with sanitizer.

NOTE REGARDING MASKS

Surgical masks and N-95 respirators are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance. All staff and workers should wear a mask covering when in shared areas of the facility and maintain social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Symptoms
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control &
Prevention (CDC), people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of reported symptoms.

These include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

WHEN TO GET TESTED

If you believe you may have been in close contact (6 feet or less for 15 minutes for more) with someone
known to have COVID-19, we would recommend you be tested and quarantine for 14 days from the last
exposure with the confirmed individual to prevent further spread of the virus in the community. During
this time, avoid contact with others, stay home and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.