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Castillo: Fighting for Their Lives

  • State: California
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As if the backbreaking work performed by farmworkers isn’t already detrimental to their health, a new study shows the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on their communities.

Michael Castillo

Michael Castillo

Released by the Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, the study takes a hard look at the disproportionate effects the coronavirus pandemic is having on California’s 800,000 agricultural workers.

Of the 1,091 farmworkers interviewed between July and November, 13% had tested positive for COVID-19, more than double the state’s 5.6% positivity rate recorded on Nov. 24. Preliminary antibody tests showed seropositivity doubled to nearly 20% between July and October, suggesting one in five farmworkers had previously been infected with the disease.

Furthermore, more than 25% said they had a loved one who had become infected with the disease, while 7% said they knew a loved one who had died from COVID-19.

The findings show the continued unequal toll being taken on communities of color. Of the participants surveyed, 96% identified as Latino and 84% were from Mexico.

The study comes as state lawmakers try to determine which essential workers should be prioritized after health care workers to receive the first wave of 327,000 vaccines arriving in California this week.

Take five minutes to listen to Maria Aguilar, a farmworker living in Madera, as she testifies before the Assembly Labor Committee about how COVID-19 has impacted her family and community. Let it sink in.

As these essential workers continue fighting for their lives while working in increasingly hazardous conditions to feed the state and the nation, we hope lawmakers fight for their lives as well by prioritizing agricultural workers to be among the first to receive the vaccine.

Michael Castillo is communications director for the California Applicants' Attorneys Association. This opinion is republished, with permission, from the CAAA website.

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