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Coronavirus outbreak at Vermont apple orchard sickens dozens of migrant workers

An outbreak of the novel coronavirus at an apple orchard in Vermont has sickened dozens, according to a local report.

The outbreak has been reported among migrant workers at Champlain Orchards, an apple orchard in Shoreham. As of Monday, at least 26 workers had tested positive for COVID-19, said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, the VTDigger reported.

At least one worker has been hospitalized, while the others are largely asymptomatic, according to a local report.

At least one worker has been hospitalized, while the others are largely asymptomatic, according to a local report.

“The outbreak is contained to the farm, and I want to emphasize, there is no known risk to the public,” he said, noting that those who visited the farm stand or picked apples at the orchard were not considered to be at risk, as the orchard followed state health guidelines and the workers did not come into close contact with any visitors.

The outbreak was reported among workers who had traveled to the state in September from Jamaica under the H-2A visa program, the outlet reported. The first positive case among the workers was reported on Oct. 1, toward the end of the workers’ 14-day quarantine.


The orchard was subsequently closed and the state health officials were notified. The workers have been tested at least twice following the first positive case.


At least one worker has been hospitalized, while the others are largely asymptomatic, according to the VTDigger.

“I have seen various facilities, businesses, travelers ethnic groups, and other groups face stigma over the course of this pandemic, and I call on Vermonters again to focus on the disease, and how to keep it at bay where we can, rather than creating fear or rumors,” Levine said when urging residents against stigmatizing those who have tested positive, per the VTDigger.


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Vermont battling Covid-19 at an apple orchard among migrant workers

Vermont is battling a Covid-19 outbreak among migrant workers at an apple orchard, state officials announced Monday.

a sign on the side of the street: 16528985: Vermont Orchards Covid Outbreak

16528985: Vermont Orchards Covid Outbreak

Champlain Orchards in Addison County had 27 workers test positive over the weekend, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said on Tuesday. The commissioner had previously announced 26 cases, with one more test result being reported after the initial announcement.


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The first positive case was discovered last week. It came toward the end of the migrant workers’ quarantine period after arriving in the state in mid-September, and the person is believed to have become ill outside of Vermont, according to Dr. Levine.

State officials said that the orchard owner was complying with guidance and that apples were disinfected before being sold. The apples are sold in Vermont, parts of Massachusetts and in upstate New York and New Jersey, according to the orchard’s website.

As the coronavirus is a respiratory virus, the CDC has said that there is “no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.”

“The orchard owners and state agencies are working to make sure these workers have what they need — food, shelter and other things to isolate safely,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said in a news conference.

“In light of recent national events, I hardly need to remind Vermonters of the nature of the virus. People do not get sick because they are from a certain place, ethnicity or nationality — they get sick if they are exposed to the virus.”

Vermont has had the fewest Covid-19 cases of any state, with only 1,821 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The state saw no Covid-related deaths or ICU admissions in September, according to state Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak.

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U.S. stops holding migrant children in hotels

The Trump administration has quietly stopped its controversial practice of holding migrant children in hotels before expelling them from the southern border, though it says these minors can still be quickly removed from U.S. soil under emergency coronavirus restrictions.

a group of palm trees on a street corner: Virus Outbreak Migrant Children Hotels

© Matt York / AP
Virus Outbreak Migrant Children Hotels

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not held migrant minors in border-area hotels since September 11, an agency spokesperson told CBS News on Thursday. The confirmation of the previously undisclosed policy shift follows a court declaration, signed on September 17, in which ICE official Mellissa Harper said the number of migrant minors who were awaiting expulsion at a hotel had dwindled to zero.

Nearly 9,000 migrant children expelled from U.S. amid pandemic



Despite this shift, unaccompanied children and families with minors who cross or arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without documents — just like single adults — can still be expelled from the country under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directive issued in March, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Matthew Dyman told CBS News on Thursday.

“The CDC order allows for everyone to be amenable to expulsion,” Dyman said. “Anyone can be infected with COVID.”

Taylor Levy, an independent immigration attorney in El Paso, said she continues to receive cases of unaccompanied children whom border officials seek to expel. On Thursday, Levy said she helped halt the expulsions of two Central American teenagers who are now going to be allowed to stay in the U.S. while their immigration cases are adjudicated.  

“The true problem here is not the hotels, it’s the expulsions,” Taylor told CBS News. “Just because DHS has stopped using hotels does not mean that children are not being expeditiously expelled without any due process, without any chance to seek asylum.”  

It is unclear why exactly U.S. immigration officials closed, at least temporarily, their unprecedented border hotel detention system for migrant children, which was overseen by personnel from MVM, an ICE contractor. ICE did not provide an explanation or say whether it would resume its use of hotels, saying in a statement it could not provide further comment due to ongoing litigation.

“Any temporary housing of minors will comply with all legal requirements,” an ICE spokesperson said.

On September 4, Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ordered the Trump administration to stop holding migrant children in hotels, absent limited three-day stays, finding that the makeshift detention system violated the Flores Settlement Agreement, which stipulates that undocumented minors in U.S. custody need to have access to lawyers, safe and sanitary facilities and other safeguards while the government seeks their prompt release.

But that ruling is not in effect due to several orders by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has placed an administrative stay on Gee’s mandate. On Wednesday, a three-member panel of 9th Circuit judges extended the stay to next Monday.

During a hearing Wednesday, Judge Marsha Berzon, one of the members