Farmworker Community In Palm Beach County Demands COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization
The Guatemalan-Maya Center says there is a 30% COVID-19 infection rate among 600 agricultural workers and families.
There is a dire plea from "Florida’s frontline farmworkers" who "feed us all, keep our grocery stores well stocked."
The Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth Beach, and other farming community groups, signed a formal letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis to prioritize farmworkers for the COVID-19 vaccine.
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The center says it saw a 30% infection rate among 600 agricultural workers and families that would regularly test for COVID-19.
"This high Covid-19 infection rate was partly due to unequal access to healthcare among these essential workers, especially since many live in rural areas, and in part a result of performing hazardous essential work that few are willing to do and which can not be performed remotely," the letter said.
"Agriculture is perhaps more critical to our economy now than ever before, considering our first industry is tourism, which will revive only with the passing of Covid-19 and the widespread use of the vaccine."
Advocates for migrant agricultural workers say workers in rural areas need access to better health care, expansion of COVID-19 test sites, and access to the COVID-19 vaccine — independent of a workers’ immigrant status. The center is requesting "that all incoming H-2A workers arrive vaccinated or are first on the list for vaccination."
H-2A workers are temporary agricultural workers. The U.S program allows employers "who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs."
Agriculture is Florida’s second largest industry behind tourism and Palm Beach County ranked first in the state for agricultural sales. In 2017, the state ranked third in the U.S for agricultural exports, totaling $4 billion.
Some of the organizations who’ve signed the letter include the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida Farmworker Association, WeCount, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and 15 other advocacy groups.
"Those who have labored tirelessly in the fields throughout the pandemic deserve concrete action that recognizes their significance to the lives of every American," the letter said. "We know that by prioritizing farmworkers, you will be prioritizing the stability of our state and saving the lives of some of our most essential workers."