By Jazmine Juarez, Special to the Pajaronian
WATSONVILLE—Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) is calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to take 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 in a letter to the Governor said the state must take further action to ensure farmworkers have adequate access to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and temporary housing to allow for necessary social distancing.
“Farmworkers’ inability to socially distance and access healthcare leave them particularly vulnerable to the virus,” Rivas said in a press release.
Rivas’ letter comes on the heels of Monterey County’s request to Gov. Newsom on April 17 calling for “immediate assistance” in securing PPE, including 180,000 facial coverings – and prioritizing COVID-19 testing and supplies for their farmworkers.
“We are concerned that without State assistance to provide a significant amount of the PPE needed, and resources to expand COVID-19 testing,” the county wrote in its letter, “we will not be able to adequately reduce COVID-19 transmission risks among the vulnerable farmworker community.”
Rivas called the farmworkers 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,” he said. “They are the unsung heroes of this pandemic.”