Herd immunity, safety lessons can be applied to pandemic recovery

By Darren Turley

TAD Executive Director

As school gets underway, the COVID variant is marching strong across Texas and the nation. For a time this summer, it seemed like we would be “back to normal” with vaccines and without masks, and kids would be returning to the classroom after a year where some learned only virtually.

We’re all wondering what will come next. The state is running short of ICU beds, large events are being cancelled, and some businesses are requiring masks again. With less than half of the population in some of our rural counties vaccinated, there is some concern that these areas will see high caseloads.

Just as dairy farmers take every precaution to protect their herds, so we should be protecting our families, dairy employees and others in the communities. Rural healthcare options are limited, and our community hospitals are assets we can’t afford to overwhelm. Our small businesses have been struggling since the start of the pandemic, and we don’t want them to shut down.

I won’t tell you to get a vaccine or wear a mask; that’s personal choice. But those of us who work with livestock in herds understand the effectiveness of vaccines and how they contribute to herd immunity.

In Texas, the low COVID-19 vaccination rate is less about availability and access and more about trust in the medicine. Farmers are definitely seen as trustworthy voices; if you’ve been vaccinated and want to help promote it among your workers or your community, the National Rural Health Association has resources including information and talking points.

I know that good laborers on a dairy are hard to find. One way to help keep your employees safe is to invite a mobile vaccination unit to your dairy. Also, most local vaccine providers have more than enough doses to meet demand. Remind your employees that there is no charge for vaccines, and that questions are not asked about legal status.

Our country definitely needs to return to consistency and normalcy in our future. No one wants another lockdown, and I don’t think our economy could handle one, especially in our rural areas.

The dairy industry never sleeps or slows down and never takes a day off. Dairy farmers and workers must stay healthy. We can’t afford more speed bumps on the road to the industry’s bright future, especially in Texas, where milk production continues to climb and we’re hitting record export levels.

As we must take personal responsibility when it comes to COVID protections, we’re also continuing to watch how our state and federal elected officials handle this virus. In Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott has called the Texas Legislature into a second 30-day special session, after House Democrats broke the needed quorum to do business during the first special session and essentially brought it to a halt. You can read more about Capitol and legislative events in our governmental relations team’s report elsewhere in this newsletter.

As I’ve often said, I believe most people could use a little time on a dairy to better understand hard work, consistency and even herd immunity! Be safe, and let’s all hope for some return to normalcy as fall arrives.

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