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Some Farmworkers In California Are Finally Getting Vaccinated; Gov. Newsom Visited One Site Today

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TODEC Legal Center is one of the non-profit partners helping to vaccinate farmworkers in Riverside County. (Photo Courtesy TODEC via Twitter)
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Who to vaccinate and when has been a huge issue here in California. When the state widened the priority list to include people 65 and older, advocates who represent California's farmworkers worried about when the shots would get to that vulnerable group of essential workers.

Farmworkers are largely Latino, and Latinos in California have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 cases and deaths. Now, at least in some areas, agricultural workers are eligible for shots. Riverside County, for example, has been registering workers in the field for pop-up sites. (In L.A. County, which is also expanding the pool of eligible essential workers, agricultural workers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in mid-March.)

Addressing the criticism over equity, Governor Gavin Newsom visited a packing house in Coachella that will vaccinate up to 350 farmworkers a day. He spoke about his changing views on all this:

"[We are] recognizing that equity is not just about race and ethnicity. Equity is also about the ability to get in a car, to be [in] closer proximity to public transportation, [to] have the ability to even access a device or even understand what to do when you do access a device... You've got to meet people where they are. And it's exactly what folks are doing here."

Governor Newsom also announced an additional $24 million for the "Housing for the Harvest" program, which provides temporary hotel rooms for farm workers who need to isolate due to COVID-19.
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But despite Newsom's talk of equity, some farmworker advocates are still concerned that vulnerable residents are being overlooked:

"Advocates say community groups also need to work with health departments to ensure that scheduling is doable for farmworkers. For example, a system where appointments open up at noon each day might not work for someone who is in the field without reliable internet access at that time."

Last week, Coachella became the first city to approve "hero pay" for farmworkers. City officials there cited the fact that those workers are "performing hazardous duty due to the significant risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus."

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