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COVID-19: What farmers should know

(CIFN file photo)

PONTIAC – Just because farming is considered essential in these times of COVID-19 doesn’t mean farmers shouldn’t follow general guidelines like everyone else.

“The social distancing and keeping a safe space still remain a valuable tool,” Dr. John Rinker told The Central Illinois Farm Network this week.

Rinker, who serves as Chief Medical Officer at OSF HealthCare St. James John W. Albrecht Medical Center, realizes farmers will not be able to always avoid each other during the upcoming spring planting season but they should try to.

“If you don’t have to share space in a cab, I would go solo and have one person man one piece of equipment if that’s possible.”

A trip to town should also be avoided whenever possible but if you must go, Rinker recommends proper hygiene and distancing. It all comes down to applying all of the basic health guidelines to your own farming operation.

COVID-19 is just as much of a threat to the rural areas as the cities even though it is not as widely spread around here just yet.

“More densely populated areas are probably the first and hardest hit,” Rinker said.

This is no way means we are insulated from the problem in farm country – we will probably see a delay before numbers start to rise more when compared to the larger metro areas. Coronavirus can be especially concerning to rural areas with fewer resources for residents.

In order to stop the virus spread, Rinker suggests staying home if at all possible and socially isolating yourself from other members of the community. When looking at the data, social isolation works and is useful.

“Wash your hands constantly and obsessively,” Rinker added.

Covering your face can also help prevent spread to others or yourself. Another important factor is staying six feet away from other people.

“Obviously, if you are living in one household with your family, that’s one thing,” Rinker explained. “But, it’s another to be integrated so closely with other people and other communities.”

Most of us know farmers who want to “tough it out” when dealing with an illness in order to get a crop put in the ground. This is not a good idea with coronavirus, says Rinker. While some may spread the disease without exhibiting symptoms, many of those who do have symptoms become very sick. In fact, they may not realize how sick they are.

“Certainly, for a farmer who might be out in the field by himself with no one to check on him, I don’t think toughing it out makes sense.”

If you are sick, you increase the risk of spreading the illness to others.

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