Ag leaders working to protect Valley farmworkers during Omicron surge

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The rise in COVID cases brought on by the highly transmissible Omicron variant has local Ag officials doing all they can to protect Valley farmworkers.

Employees with the Fresno County Farm Bureau were busy Friday handing out free N95 masks.

"We've been in this process for 18 months, between the disposable mask and hand sanitizer, just trying to get as much PPE out into the industry as possible to keep our employees safe," says Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen.

Jacobsen says this latest shipment of PPE is being supplied by the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance on face coverings to say N95 and KN95 masks offer better protection against COVID-19 than other masks.

"It's the employers that are responsible for the distribution of PPE to those employees and so, therefore, we're working with them to get them out in both the field and the packing houses," Jacobsen said.

Farmers who work with the Asian Business Institute and Resource Center grow more than 100 different vegetable varieties in Fresno County.

Friday, Keng Vang picked up enough N95 masks to protect over 300 of the organization's Ag workers.

"A of the farmers we work with don't really have access to these types of resources, so it's really good that the Farm Bureau is passing these out so we can distribute them to our farmers," he said.

While these masks help protect against the spread of COVID, officials say they also offer multiple uses this time of year.

"Right now, we are gearing up for the time of year where they may be utilized not necessarily for the air quality side, but more for COVID as well as the pesticide," Jacobsen said. "We're trying to get those out as quickly as possible."
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