New program to help isolate farm workers if they contract COVID-19

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Crews have started the organic melon harvest in the Firebaugh area.

Joe Del Bosque told the State Board of Food and Agriculture his equipment is sanitized regularly and he constantly tells workers to wash their hands - not only on the job site but also when they get home.

"When you're in the car, when four to five of you pile up in a car because they carpool, wear your face mask in your car," he said. "Wear it until you get home."

Growers around the state learned of a new program designed to isolate farm laborers who become infected with the coronavirus.

They would be placed in hotel rooms to help keep their family members safe.

"The initial rollout is for the Central Valley because of the big surge that is happening there," says State Ag Secretary Karen ross. "But we do want to make it available for any county to opt-in. FEMA will cover up to 75% of the cost for the hotel rooms."

Del Bosque has had two employees test positive. One has fully recovered but a supervisor is still recovering at home.

"He's in isolation and he's chomping at the bit to come back to work but we tell him, 'Look, you gotta test negative before you can come back to work.'"

The Valley's rural areas are in need of improved testing capabilities and contact tracing.

Growers hope Gov. Newsom's $52 million pledge to assist Central California can help underserved areas, like Mendota and Orange Cove.

Last week, Huron opened its first free COVID-19 test clinic.

"I think the first one on the west side of the Valley that I've been aware of," says Don Cameron. "It's been a struggle to get the free testing and as we've all heard, the results."

Cameron is a western Fresno County grower and the President of the CDFA Board. He has provided COVID testing for all of the workers on his farm.
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