California farmworkers severely impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, study shows

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California farmworkers have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

A just-released study by the California Institute for Rural Studies shows the effects of rising infection rates and vaccine uncertainties may be putting ag workers lives at risk.

"The long-term substandard working and living conditions of farmworkers combined with the historical disposable that shoulders agricultural production in California has been amplified during the pandemic," anthropologist Bonnie Bade said.

This 2nd phase study on California farmworkers and COVID-19 shows many of the people who toil in fields are ripe for transmission of the virus.

Those who contributed to the findings are asking lawmakers for change after essential ag workers complained about uneven protections and little enforcement of COVID protocols.

Uncertainties about testing and vaccinations have also fueled fears for those who often lack access to healthcare.

"Having dialog directly with the people that are in positions to shift some of these structural barriers that have made it very difficult for immigrant farmworker communities to get what they need," said anthropologist Dvera Saxton.

High levels of stress have been part of the daily lives of farmworkers and their families during the pandemic -- as working parents fear infection, hospitalization and job loss following the closing of restaurants and other fresh-food industries.

Food scarcity was also reported to be a major concern for many families as distance learning has increased the cost of food as most children stay at home.

Researchers blame state leaders for failing to reach out to this crucial workforce that they say is oftentimes overlooked.

"We must include food and farmworkers in any and all economic assistance and relief programs regardless of their citizenship status," said community organizer Erica Fernandez Zamora.

More than 60 essential farm workers took part in this study.
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