By Norma Galeana
THERMAL, Calif.- For farmworkers in California’s Coachella Valley, it’s brutally simple: no work means no food. But fear of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it amongst their families has created uncertainty and anxiety.
In an effort to ease their fears, Dr. Raul Ruiz, a congressman representing California’s 36th District, partnered with Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine to bring pop-up testing sites to the fields.
Coachella Valley is in Riverside county, which has recorded the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the state – nearly 45,000 – and 879 deaths.
The majority of farmworkers are uninsured and need protection, said Ruiz, a son of farmworkers who became a physician.
“In order for us to stop this pandemic, we need to focus on the highest risk individuals. Currently, as you can see in the farmworker community, with the devastating rates of infection and deaths… that is not being done,” Ruiz told Reuters on Thursday.
“We need to help the more vulnerable populations, the ones that disproportionately are getting infected and that are dying from this disease,” he said.
Maria Palomares, 33, taking a test for COVID-19 at the pop-up site, said her father and his co-workers lacked the resources and knowledge to protect themselves.
“It’s just tragic for the most part,” said Palomares. “Some of them don’t have health insurance and all these other resources to keep them healthy.”
Jose Luis Palomares said it was his second time being tested.
“For our own safety, we have a family and children… That is why… I’m getting tested this second time to make sure I am in good health,” said Palomares, who was ordered to take the COVID-19 test and return to work if his result came back negative.
For 37-year-old Jorge Sanchez, who has worked in the fields of Coachella Valley for 17 years, the options are limited.
“It is that necessity that makes us go to work. We have to go to work and we can’t really take care of ourselves, if we don’t work, we don’t eat,” said Sanchez. – Reuters