March 30, 2020
*Updated, March 30: Texas Governor Greg Abbott issues Executive Order GA-12, relating to roadway screening and self-quarantine during the COVID- 19 disaster. Read more below.
While agriculture is considered a "critical infrastructure industry," allowing farmers and ranchers and their employees to continue to work, there's confusion about whether employers or employees are required to carry documentation proving their employment, especially in counties with a shelter-in-place order.
The divisions of emergency management (DEM) in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico say "no."
"At the state level, there is no need for documentation," says Seth Christensen, chief of media and communications, Texas DEM. "The governor of Texas wants to keep produce and ag moving."
March 16, President Trump issued an updated "Coronavirus Guidance for America," which states:
"If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule."
In Robertson County, where authorities issued a shelter-in-place, Billy Huggins, DEM coordinator, echoed Christensen's statement. Huggins referred to an online document published by neighboring Brazos County, which also has a shelter-in-place. The report, "City of Bryan Shelter-in-Place FAQ," (frequently asked questions), states:
"I run an essential business, as defined by the order. Do I need to get an official letter of authorization from the city to operate?
"No. If your business is in the list of essential businesses provided in the order, then you may operate it. You do not need to obtain any specific authorization from the city to do so."
In Oklahoma, Keli Cain, public information officer, Oklahoma DEM, says, "So far, in Oklahoma documentation is not required.
"Law enforcement officials, in the last couple of days, have been reassuring the public they are not stopping people to ask for papers or certification or proof that they're essentials."
In New Mexico, Tech Sgt. Wendy Villasenor, answering the phone at the state's DEM, also confirmed no documentation verifying "critical infrastructure industry" employment is required.
For employers or employees who would feel more comfortable having documentation verifying their employment as an essential critical infrastructure worker, the Texas Department of Agriculture has made a letter available on their website.
"We are trying to help keep agriculture business moving," says Terry Keel, TDA assistant commissioner. "We're erring on the side of assisting legitimate industry, giving them anything they need to give them a comfort level on it."
Click here, to access the letter.
Exception- Louisiana to Texas
Sunday, March 29, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-12, "relating to roadway screening and self-quarantine during the COVID- 19 disaster."
"Every person who enters the State of Texas through roadways from Louisiana, or from any other state as may be proclaimed hereafter, shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into Texas or the duration of the person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter. This order to self-quarantine shall not apply to people traveling in connection with commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response, or critical-infrastructure functions, as may be determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM)," states the order.
"If you don't have documentation showing you are part of the critical infrastructure, and you are pulled over by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), you might be asked for documentation," says Christensen, who adds that the order went to effect at noon, Monday, March 30.
To request an exemption form, click here. "If business owners will complete the request form and submit it to TDEM, and include the position they want to exempt and justify why it's critical infrastructure, TDEM will reply with a document an employee can carry with them, along with their I.D."
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