On January 21, 2022, Washington's Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and Department of Health (DOH) made updates to the existing COVID-19 (coronavirus) safety rules for temporary worker housing (TWH) in the agriculture industry. This is the fifth set of modifications since the rules were originally adopted in May 2020. Here are the changes:
Cloth face coverings changed to face coverings: All instances of cloth face coverings in the rules have been simplified to “face coverings” to allow more flexibility in the kind used.
Education on vaccines for vaccinated and unvaccinated: The previous version of the rules required education around vaccines unless all occupants were vaccinated. The current rules have dropped this leeway and now require education on vaccines for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. (See (1)(a)(i).) L&I has said they made this change to encourage dissemination of booster information.
Screening for vaccinated and unvaccinated: The previous version of the rules required the operator to create a plan for identifying and isolating suspected or positive cases, which needed to include screening occupants with suspected or positive cases unless they were fully vaccinated. The new rules eliminate this exception and require screening of all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. (See section (2)(a)(i).)
Quarantine section updated: The new rules replace the term “fully vaccinated” with “up to date” (i.e., boosted if eligible for a booster shot) in the section dealing with quarantine. The rules require occupants to wear a well-fitting mask when outside of their sleeping quarters for the full quarantine period, and to self-monitor for symptoms during this time. (See section (2)(a)(iv)). These changes reflect the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and DOH adoption of these concepts. For more information, see this article, CDC now uses “up to date” instead of “fully vaccinated.”
Definition of fully vaccinated tied to DOH guidance: The rules retain the concept of being fully vaccinated in certain places, but now define it to mean occupants “who are vaccinated against COVID-19 in accordance with current Washington state department of health guidance.” (See section (5)(a).) This appears to mean that for purposes of these rules, “fully vaccinated” actually means “up to date” (i.e., including a booster shot, if eligible).
Tips:As we reported, agricultural employers saw many of their COVID-19 specific requirements go away in June 2021. What remains are specific rules like these for TWH. If you have questions about this most recent change and its impacts, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney or Vigilant safety professional.