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Plant sprouting in dirt

Consulting Latin American Agribusiness on COVID-19 Response

minute read

Written by Laura Veith on June 29, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, we understand that the coronavirus shows no partiality—it poses a threat to all peoples in all countries. The mission of our Center is similarly impartial. We stand to improve the health, safety and well-being of workers—meaning all workers, not just those within our city, state, or country. How do we use our expertise to promote worker health in the midst of the pandemic?

Our Center has partnered with one of the largest agribusinesses in Latin America, Pantaleon, since 2016. Our initial and guiding agreement has been to employ a Total Worker Health® approach within the company. In an effort to continually protect its workforce, Pantaleon recognizes the critical importance of its response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Pantaleon has rapidly implemented COVID-19 symptom-based screening strategies at its mills, and as part of its larger protection strategy, the company requested support from our Center. Leaning on our expertise, we are helping Pantaleon establish COVID-19 testing-based screening strategies in conjunction with updated screening strategies at each of their operations in six countries (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and United States).

Pantaleon workers sanitizing to protect against COVID-19

We have spent the last eight weeks in a collaborative effort to respond to the evolving circumstances of the pandemic and to minimize the risk of disease transmission among workers at Pantaleon, their families, and the communities where they live and work.

The bulk of our work has consisted of assessing and modifying the screening and testing protocols for workers in all six countries. “Despite the fact that Pantaleon is one single organization, everything it does in response to COVID-19 has to be specific to the location its addressing,” says Diana Jaramillo, Professional Research Assistant at the Center. “Many of the recommendations that they implement are dependent on the needs and circumstances of each country.”

Pantaleon wearing mask to protect from COVID-19Not only are the recommendations for COVID-19 response tailored to each location and its available resources, but the science and facts informing those recommendations are constantly changing. Thankfully our work with Pantaleon is more preparative as its staff is limited in the off-season. The company is taking this time to consult with our Center on strategic testing protocol as well as setting appropriate quarantine procedures for when the harvest begins and the full workforce returns in November.

“What we’re doing is very important,” says Diana. “We’re working with limited information about the virus, but more than anything, the information is changing daily. It’s like trying to solve a constantly changing puzzle.” As information about how to test for and treat COVID-19 continues to evolve, we do what our Center does best—translate the scientific information available to us into understandable and actionable information that employers can use to protect their workers.