Health officials said Wednesday that farm workers in Ventura County will now be able to get tested for COVID-19 for free and without having to make an appointment.
Since many of them live together in small rooms where social distancing is sometimes not possible, officials say it is of the utmost importance for them to be able to get tested and have their results quickly.
Even amid the threat of COVID-19, these farm workers put in 8-hour days in the hot sun as essential workers.
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"If they do not come to gather the harvest, the harvest is spoiled. And if no one brings in the harvest, what will we have to eat at the table?" supervisor José Luis Chávez asked.
Even outside, workers wear face masks and take additional steps to protect themselves from the virus.
"They wash their hands in the bathroom, and I have a spray in my truck that we use to disinfect the entire bathroom," Chávez said.
Still, COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported among farm workers. Ventura County officials have increased efforts at providing testing centers on the Moorpark College campus to assist them and the general population.
That testing used to take hours, but now it is done in minutes.
"There’s a high concentration of workers from the Latino community here, so that's why we’re making more efforts to educate and do check-ups at these places," Rigoberto Vargas, director of the Ventura County Department of Public Health, said.
Farm workers account for approximately 300 coronavirus cases out of the 7,000 in Ventura County, and there have not been any deaths reported among the farm workers.
"This is a tight-knit community where almost everyone knows each other, so when you get sick everyone feels it," Vargas said.
The county health department also said that an even larger testing center will open on Aug. 10 at the county fair grounds, and that for now, there is no shortage of space in intensive care rooms at eight area hospitals.