With news changing by the hour in regards to the pandemic, industries around the world are scrambling to adjust. Citizens are looking to their local governments for guidance, and US President Donald Trump has thus far been criticized for his slow response to events.
This week he issued official preventative guidelines to Americans, such as staying home if sick, keeping social distance from others, and practicing frequent, good hygiene. But many low-wage workers have been forced to continue reporting for work, restocking grocery shelves, delivering packages and making coffee.
In the notice titled ‘15 Days to Slow the Spread,’ the White House says, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry … such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.
“You and your employers should follow CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance to protect your health at work.”
Dr. Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA also issued a statement this week:
"It's more important than ever that we assure the American public that the government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products.
“As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the US food supply and protecting agricultural health."
Guiding the dairy workforce
The American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) said in an email to members that there is a clear need for the dairy industry to continue to closely collaborate with federal and state officials “to remove potential bottlenecks for our workforce, to our supply chains, to our inputs stream, and our transportation networks, among others.”
Blake Anderson, president and CEO of ADPI, said it is now imperative that the US federal government begin to lay out a strategy for ensuring the continued operation of the ‘critical infrastructure industries.’
The ADPI statement said, “Based on critical lessons learned from other countries and regions, including dairy industry partners in the EU and Canada, it is imperative that our federal government now begin to lay out a strategy for ensuring the continued operation of the critical infrastructure industries. After speaking with the EU and Canada about impacts to their dairy industries, we must prioritize the safety and availability of our workforce, ensuring transportation routes remain open, and providing a viable market or market alternatives for our nation’s dairy products."
Specific guidelines for ADPI members include:
1. Workforce: Ensure workforce continue to have access to food production and distribution facilities
2. Services: Continuity of waste management services, energy and utilities services, and telecommunications and internet, etc.
3. Transportation: For trucking and rail service, ensure all transportation routes are unimpeded for any reason; re: ports, ensure ports remain open and functional for both inbound and outbound goods; for all modes of transportation, provide access to refrigerated containers, trailers, pallets and logistical tools.
4. Borders: Ensure border inspection facilities prioritize the entry of foodstuffs and have processes in place to enable drivers and their vehicles expedited screening and entry.
5. Manufacturing: Ensure our food and beverage production facilities have access to inputs; articulate a plan to standardize safety of operations in production facilities; confirm the government will have enough inspectors and related officials who are essential to the production and/or distribution of food, beverage and ingredients.
“We know from observing other countries managing COVID-19 responses that things most likely will get worse before they get better, and it is critically important that the US Federal Government develops and actions a strategy and identifies the coordinated tactics for ensuring the continued operation of the nation’s critical industries, including food and agriculture and dairy therein,” ADPI said.