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Dear dairy employee: Thank you from our family to yours

Mireille Chahine and Mario de Haro-Martí for Progressive Dairy Published on 22 May 2020
Mireille Chahine and Mario de Haro-Marti

We would like to start this letter by introducing ourselves. Our names are Mireille Chahine and Mario de Haro-Martí. We are husband and wife, and we both work at the University of Idaho Extension, supporting you and the dairy industry.

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Like most of you, we are foreign-born and came to this country in search of a better life. We have two young children who attend elementary school. Our family has spent the last weeks trying to wrap our heads around the new health crisis engulfing our world.

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Amid this global pandemic crisis we are experiencing, it dawned on us that you are risking your health during the COVID-19 outbreak to keep us fed. While most of us stayed home during the pandemic in an attempt to slow down the virus spreading, you were one of the heroes on the front line, making sure our fridges and pantries are full and our children had food on their plates.

And with many schools currently closed, you are also faced with the fundamental challenge of ensuring your children are getting adequate education at home. With our families living abroad, it is a little bit harder to find a support system while the children are at home from school.

Some people take you and your work for granted. They don’t even consider thanking agricultural workers for their daily labor. We want to make sure you know we, and many others, are very thankful for the job you do day in and day out. We also would like to take a moment to thank you for putting yourselves and your families at risk to provide for our families. Of all the essential services that have to remain open, dairies are one of them. We can’t intentionally stop milking cows because otherwise they will get sick.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the need to follow biosecurity procedures, in this case, to protect ourselves and our families, and indirectly the livestock under our care. Different coronaviruses affect humans and cattle, but there is no scientific evidence that COVID-19 directly affects cows.

Cows will, however, get sick with other diseases if we stop caring for them, and we all know that you play a crucial role in taking care of the cows. In the case of any pandemic or epidemic, dairy workers are one of the essential workers who can’t stop their labor. It makes a lot of sense, then, to take extra care in protecting you. The dairy where you work can take several steps to protect you as an essential worker. Other entities such as diverse government institutions, schools, health districts, police and public works departments are also taking appropriate steps to protect you. Ultimately, however, the responsibility to protect yourself falls on you and your family.

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You need to be aware of what’s going on around your dairy, town, county and state. Follow protocols and directives from the farm where you work, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), as well as the local, state and federal government. Check for trustworthy science-based information from your local public health department, the CDC, universities and the World Health Organization (WHO). Your family should stay at home as much as possible, except for those, you included, who need to keep working. Plan to do as few as possible runs to the store to purchase food and other essentials. Now is not the time to socialize and meet with friends and extended family.

Social distancing and isolation within the family nucleus is the best way to proceed to protect yourself, your family and friends, as well as your source of income. Keep contact with co-workers to a minimum, just what is needed to perform job duties. Disinfect your work area thoroughly, and wash your hands with soap and water often or use alcohol-based disinfectants. Follow biosecurity protocols for getting to your work and after work, before entering your home.

Your job is vital, not only to your family and the company you work for but also for society as a whole. Your work produces one of the essential foods to feed your fellow humans. It is not only crucial but one of the noblest jobs. Our family would like to thank your family. Thank you for your dedication and thank you for the willingness to come to work when you are scared for your health and the health of your family. Not all heroes wear capes, and you are our heroes.  end mark

PHOTO: Mireille Chahine, Ph.D. and Mario de Haro-Martí, Ph.D. University of Idaho Extension. Courtesy photo.

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