Just as we feared early in the COVID-19 outbreak, the San Joaquin Valley is rapidly becoming a hot spot. While the numbers of cases were low from March to May, everything changed once businesses started opening in May.
As of July 10, there are 10,000 active COVID-19 cases in the six-county region. The most impacted communities are those working in the agriculture industry and incarcerated people.
Through the project Protecting Each Other, we have distributed 2000 masks throughout the San Joaquin Valley in collaboration with the Latino Environmental Advancement & Policy Institute (LEAP) and Centro Binacional para el Desarollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO).
The distribution of masks has been an opportunity to bring information to farmworkers on protecting their health, the health of their families, and defending their workers’ rights. Through this project we have built new relationships with farmworker leaders and other organizations working to protect the health of essential workers and their families.
While distributing the masks, Know Your Rights and COVID-19 information, we have had the opportunity to directly observe the extent to which farmworkers are receiving information and protection from their employers. We have learned that not only farmworkers need masks, but also their children because there are instances in which they are taking their kids to work.
Our advocacy work continues in collaboration with regional Latinx activists. We have been following up on the letter sent to Governor Gavin Newson in June. We are also gathering data to have more accurate information about the numbers of essential workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and the care they are or are not receiving.
Photo: Jose Eduardo Chavez