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MABA President on Rural Michigan’s Rise in COVID Cases, Vaccine Hope on the Way

Michigan COVID statistics as of 12/9/2020. Photo: michigan.gov/coronavirus

As of Thursday morning, the State of Michigan has reported 415,200 cases and 10,213 deaths. More and more cases are being confirmed in rural counties.

“In the spring, as we started to see coronavirus emerge, more of the cases were in urban areas,” said Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Although there were still some cases in rural Michigan, but smaller towns and rural counties didn’t have the same new caseloads in the spring.”

Lippstreu said that with this rise in cases particularly in rural areas, that plays a direct impact on agriculture.

“As more people test positive for coronavirus in small towns, that affects the agricultural workforce,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t affect the direct ag workforce, higher case rates affect the communities where people live and work in terms of increased hospital capacity, increased numbers of people who might know someone who has tested positive or is struggling with coronavirus.”

That ripple effect has been seen across Michigan. Lippstreu said that since the pandemic began, Michigan agriculture has not only learned about the spread and prevention, but how to stay safe.

“Something I’ve noticed is an increased interest and focus on some of those baseline things with or without a mandate—wearing a mask when you’re inside around other people, social distancing, washing your hands,” said Lippstreu.

Food suppliers and producers have learned to react quickly, particularly in the beginning.

“The companies involved took very decisive action—they acted fast, learned what they could, were very decisive in terms of putting in place measures to stop the spread of coronavirus,” said Lippstreu. “As we learn more about the disease and how it spreads, it’s why every employer in Michigan agriculture and employers across the state have taken new steps over the course of the last few months.”

Lippstreu added that while there’s a greater number of COVID cases in rural areas, everyone can play an important role by doing baseline safety measures.

“We’ve been operating without any visibility to the future because we didn’t know what the future would hold,” he said. “Now we have a reason to be hopeful because there’s a vaccine on the way. However long it takes for that vaccine to make it throughout the general public, that’s really good news. It means there could be some light at the end of the tunnel and makes it more important as we’re seeing more new cases in rural areas to mask up, wash your hands, and stay away from other people.”