New Health Order Will Regulate Homeless Shelters, H-2A Housing
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
by Malea Martin
(For the full article visit the website linked below)
Published by the SUN
After experiencing multiple serious COVID-19 outbreaks and community groups’ continued advocacy for increased Public Health Department involvement, Santa Barbara County H-2A housing and homeless shelters are now regulated through a new health order.
Issued on Sept. 11, the order applies to all individuals entering or residing in homeless shelters and H-2A housing. It requires that residents be screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms; that anyone with symptoms immediately self-isolate and notify the manager, operator, or owner of the facility; and that the manager, operator, or owner immediately contact the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department when there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 within a shelter or housing.
In accordance with California Department of Public Health guidelines, an outbreak is declared at homeless shelters or H-2A housing if there is one confirmed case, plus two or more individuals who are displaying certain COVID-19 symptoms, Deputy Director for Community Health Paige Batson told the Sun in late August.
But the new order requires that local public health officials be notified as soon as there is just one confirmed case at these facilities. This is similar to existing guidelines for skilled nursing facilities, County Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso told the Sun.
The order also “strongly recommends” that homeless shelters and H-2A housing facilities “utilize stable groups to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19,” the order stated.
Hazel Davalos—community organizing director at the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), a group that advocates for increased county involvement in H-2A housing—said the new health order is a big win.
“We’ve been pushing consistently over the last couple months to see this happen, and we’re very excited,” she said. “This is really an urgently needed step to prevent any further farmworker deaths from COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County.”
During an outbreak in Alco Harvesting farmworker housing in Santa Maria earlier this year, 51-year-old Leo Begario Chavez-Alvarado died on July 7 after contracting COVID-19. More than 90 workers total caught the virus during the course of the outbreak.