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Farmers, Don’t Be "Tough"

April 1, 2020

Jennifer Shike

In the midst of COVID-19, one of the advantages of living in rural America is that it has a relatively low population density. And that’s important, because there’s less contact between susceptible and infected people, according to Jim Lowe, DVM, director of the College of Veterinary Medicine I-Learning Center at the University of Illinois. 

With planting starting hopefully sooner rather than later, everyone will be itching to get out in the field. Lowe cautioned farmers that it’s more important than ever to stay home if they begin to feel sick. 

“Those of us in agriculture tend to want to be tough and get on with it. This isn't the time to be the tough guy,” Lowe said during a farmdocDAILY webinar.

But what should farmers do if they start to exhibit symptoms? Gary Schnitkey, Soybean Industry Chair in Agricultural Strategy at the University of Illinois, said that he’s continued to plant when he’s been under the weather before because he’s had to. That’s not an uncommon decision this time of the year. The reality now? Times have changed, Schnitkey says. 

Lowe agreed, noting, “If you've got a cough and you don't feel very good, don’t ignore it. This is not the flu.” 

He encouraged farmers to take COVID-19 seriously and isolate if they start to observe symptoms. 

“Don't get your whole family infected,” Lowe said. “Take care of yourself because if you look at the risk, people go from feeling bad to really sick in a matter of hours. They end up on ventilators, they are sedated, basically paralyzed and lying on their belly for days trying to make their lungs work because they quit breathing.”

The unknowns about this virus are many and although we shouldn’t live in fear, he said it’s not something to take lightly. 

“If your hands touch things like your pickup truck, wash the handles off. Be cautious and be consistent,” he said. “If you don't feel very good, go to a doctor. This virus gets real bad, real quick.”



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