OLYMPIA — The state Department of Labor & Industries and Department of Health filed new emergency rules Friday regarding COVID-19 protections for farmworkers living in temporary housing.
The rules were first issued in May of last year. This third update went into effect Sunday.
Many of the requirements stayed intact, including 50% housing capacity and allowing use of bunk beds only if employers maintain cohort groups that work, travel and live together.
The update addresses vaccinated workers for the first time. Vaccinated workers are allowed to share common areas if they maintain physical distancing and mask use. Vaccinated workers can also be transported in the same vehicle as long as they wear a face covering.
Other updates include ending a requirement for a licensed health care provider to make twice-daily visits to workers in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. Employers are now only required to have a health care provider check in daily, either in person or through telemedicine.
The update also removes rules regarding proximity to emergency room services.
Workers will have to quarantine and be housed separately if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, but will not have to do so if vaccinated.
The update comes more than two weeks after a Yakima County Superior Court judge issued an order to end enforcement of several rules, namely those concerning medical care and access by community workers.
The latest revision removed all but one of the rules mentioned in the court ruling. The rules still allow community workers to visit workers in farmworker housing.
Wafla, a Lacey-based nonprofit that works on agricultural labor issues, and the Washington Farm Bureau, a trade association also in Lacey, sued the state agencies in Yakima County Superior Court, arguing that rules issued in January were a rollover of policies established at the start of the pandemic and disregard industry feedback, improved understanding of COVID-19 transmission and best safety practices.
The groups said previously they plan to pursue the rules as a whole when the case is transferred to Thurston County Superior Court.