Few new details emerge regarding COVID-19 outbreak among migrant nursery workers

Neither Sierra Cascade Nursery nor Richard Egan, Lassen County’s administrative officer and public information officer for lassencares.org, the county’s COVID-19 reporting agency, responded to lassenews.com’s phone calls Thursday regarding the infected migrant farm workers who recently arrived in Lassen County.

Susan Felt, human resources director at SCN, yesterday referred lassennews’ questions regarding the outbreak to the company’s CEO, but he did not return the call Wednesday. Lassennews left a message Thursday on an answering machine at SCN, but that call was not returned either.

While Felt declined to discuss the matter with lassennews yesterday, she did post a comment to Wednesday’s story published on our website.

“First of all I want to say how proud I am of our Lassen County residents and your acceptance of our diverse workforce,” Felt wrote. “Many of our workers have been coming to Susanville since 2007, and they love our community. We have been working on a COVID mitigation strategy since May for bringing in our seasonal workers safely for them and for our community. You can also be very proud of our Lassen County Health Department. We have been working hand in hand with them for months and they are amazing. They have put the community’s health as number one priority.

“Our workers were tested in Mexico and no one with a positive test came to the U.S. We have rigid quarantine orders, testing strategies and re-testing strategies in place to ensure our workers are COVID free before they’re allowed to enter into the community, if and when that is allowed. These are amazing, hard working people that come year after year to Lassen County on legal visas for agriculture work. We ask for grace for our workers as we work through these unprecedented times.”

While Felt reports the workers were tested in Mexico before they came here, yesterday Egan said they were tested upon their arrival in Lassen County.

According to its website, SCN — founded in 1977 as Susanville Nursery by Joe Jertberg, Sr. and his oldest son Randy — has California operations in Bonanza, Tulelake, Butte Valley and Ballico. It also has an operation in Reno, Nevada.

Neither SCN nor Egan have revealed the number of infected workers in Susanville or the specific details regarding the mitigation effort agreed to by the Lassen County Public Health Department and the nursery or any possible concerns regarding public safety due to the outbreak. According to Egan, all the workers are being quarantined at the Lassen County Fairgrounds “for the duration of their stay.”

Since the migrant workers are not residents of Lassen County, yesterday Egan said he didn’t know if the infected workers would be added to the county’s COVID-19 count.

It also remains unknown if any other infected workers arrived at the nursery’s other locations.

Lassennews will continue to seek information to update this story.