Information provided by the office of State Assemblyman Robert Rivas.
On April 24, State Assemblyman Robert Rivas sent Governor Gavin Newsom a letter requesting urgent steps to protect farmworkers and the food supply chain in the wake of COVID-19. Following reports of 41 agricultural workers being diagnosed with COVID-19 in Monterey County, Rivas urged Newsom to take further action to ensure farmworkers throughout California have adequate access to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and temporary housing to allow for necessary social distancing.
“I appreciate the action Governor Newsom has taken to protect farmworkers,” Rivas said. “Recent executive orders extended paid sick leave to two weeks, established a Disaster Relief Fund to assist immigrant workers, and created a limited expansion of testing to underserved communities. But recent indications of disproportionate COVID-19 cases among farmworkers in my district demonstrate the need for urgent, additional relief. Farmworkers’ inability to socially distance and access healthcare leaves them particularly vulnerable to the virus.”
As of April 24, Monterey County health officials said agricultural workers are over represented among local COVID-19 cases, according to the release. They said 41 people, about 25% of those who have tested positive, identified themselves as working in the agricultural industry. According to the release, “Officials believe they are seeing more cases there because they may spend a lot of time with coworkers, work in close proximity for long periods of time or live in large households.”
Monterey County sent Newsom a request on April 17 for “immediate assistance” in securing PPE, including 180,000 facial coverings, and prioritizing COVID-19 testing and supplies for their farmworkers. There’s concern that without state assistance to provide a significant amount of the PPE needed and resources to expand testing, Monterey County would not be able to adequately reduce COVID-19 transmission risks among the vulnerable farmworker community, the release said.
“Many farmworkers throughout the state live, work and travel in crowded conditions without the ability to socially distance, isolate, or access PPE or testing for COVID-19,” Rivas said. “Classified as essential workers, they are the backbone of California’s $50 billion-per-year agricultural industry, which supplies a large percentage of the nation’s food supply. Farmworkers go to work every day to put food on all of our tables. They are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.”
Together with Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, Rivas recently introduced the first COVID-19 relief package in the nation focused on farmworkers. The legislation includes expanded paid sick leave, supplemental hazard pay to cover increased health and childcare costs, a bilingual outreach campaign to educate workers on personal protection practices, expanded telehealth for rural areas, temporary housing to reduce crowding and allow for social distancing, and a tax credit for farmers who offer overtime work to their workers.
For local information on COVID-19, including county recommendations that may be more restrictive than state guidelines, please stay informed at:
- State website for all COVID 19 related matters—www.covid19.ca.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—www.cdc.gov
- California Department of Public Health—www.cdph.ca.gov
- Santa Clara County Department of Public Health—sccgov.org/sites/phd/pages/phd.aspx
- Monterey County Department of Health—www.mtyhd.org/2019ncov
- San Benito County Health & Human Services Agency—https://hhsa.cosb.us/publichealth/
- Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency—www.santacruzhealth.org
- Monterey County Office of Education—https://www.montereycoe.org/
- Santa Clara County Office of Education—https://www.sccoe.org/
- Santa Cruz County Office of Education—https://santacruzcoe.org/superintendent/health-and-wellness/coronavirus/
- San Benito County Office of Education—https://www.sbcoe.org/