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Home Grown: Local farmers go above and beyond to maintain COVID safety

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CBS 13's April Hettinger shows you how the ag businesses if keeping its workers, and the public, safe during the pandemic

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - It's critical for farmers to maintain a safe and healthy work environment as they are carrying the weight of the nation's food source.

The ag industry needs all hands on deck so they have implemented strict COVID measures to minimize the spread.

To comply with CDC recommendations, CEO of Datepac LLC, Tim Rooney, says it's checking temperatures of their employees before every shift and they have added 6-foot markers around the facility.

"All of our employees are required to wear face masks and face shields," Rooney stated. "As a matter of fact, we purchased our own 3D printers and manufacture our face shield in house."

Additionally, there are plexiglass barriers between each worker on the production line.

They hired more full-time sanitation employees that clean the facility every 30 minutes.

"We added additional break areas, refrigerators and microwaves, and also brought in more portable toilets so we have less crowding in our facility," Rooney explained.

With staggered breaks and lunches, farmworkers avoid having to be in close contact.

And when there is a positive case, testing is the most critical step in identifying who in contagious.

"After Thanksgiving, we had a positive test of four employees. We were able to have someone come in and test all 250 of our employees. The four people who tested positive, we were able to send home," Rooney said. "They're all in good condition right now."

Datepac says they implemented extra measures back in March that exceed food safety requirements, but the food won't be impacted by the virus.

"The CDC has come out and said there's no transmission from employees to food," Rooney stated.

Soon enough, farmworkers will be up to date with the covid vaccine.

"We've talked to the county and the Center for Border Health, so once they get the vaccines in, they'll let us know," Rooney explained.

Farmworkers fall under the phase 1B group as they are considered essential. The vaccine administration for this phase began Monday.

News / Top Stories / Yuma County / Yuma County Coronavirus
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April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. After a short 3 ½ years, she earned bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with minors in Journalism and Spanish but gained memories and friendships she will always remember.

She began her broadcast journalism career through NAZ Today, northern Arizona’s local news station, by covering breaking news, building relationships with the community, learning to produce a newscast and anchoring live. Although she will miss her snowy mountain town, she is excited to further her broadcast career and take on the heat in a great city like Yuma.

She is looking forward to floating down at the Colorado River, riding dirt bikes at the sand dunes, and most importantly, serving the community through local news.

You can send any story ideas her way by emailing april.hettinger@kecytv.com.

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