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Gov. Inslee orders more COVID-19 testing for Washington farmworkers

Gov. Inslee says many of the new cases are appearing at farms and food-packing facilities, where employees often work, travel, and live together in close contact.

Editor's note: The above video previously aired on KING 5 on August 14, 2020, when Inslee announced a relief fund for undocumented workers.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee has updated his coronavirus proclamation so that it requires agricultural employers to test their workforce broadly when health officials identify an outbreak that passes certain thresholds.  

Since the governor first issued his proclamation on May 28, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Washington has increased from 21,138 to 67,721.

Gov. Inslee said Wednesday that many of the new cases are appearing at farms and food-packing facilities, where employees often work, travel, and live together in close contact.  

In addition, Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman has ordered Gebbers Farms to test all its employees in the coming weeks. Gebbers Farms has suffered a significant outbreak of COVID-19, including the deaths of three employees.  

Last week, Gov. Inslee announced $43 million in federal CARES Act dollars for an Immigrant Relief Fund to help undocumented residents and agricultural workers in central and eastern Washington deal with the pandemic.

Gov. Inslee said $40 million will be distributed to help undocumented residents who are not eligible for unemployment or stimulus checks due to their immigration status. Those residents could be receiving $1,000 checks as soon as this fall as a result of the fund.

An additional $3 million will be distributed to agricultural workers in central and eastern Washington.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are more than 229,000 undocumented residents in Washington.

Workers throughout the state were affected by the pandemic, either through layoffs or furloughs or because they had to isolate due to coronavirus exposure on the job.