New program brings free COVID-19 testing to Valley farmworkers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The COVID-19 testing started at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning at a Delano packing house.

Over the next few hours, dozens of the company's workers came to get a test, including Manuel Velasquez.

"It's very convenient because a lot of people don't where to start when it comes to a test, and this way the test comes to you so it's easy," Velasquez said.

The event was part of a new, first-of-its-kind program by the California Farmworker Foundation to provide free COVID-19 testing to Central Valley farmworkers at their work sites.

It started in Kern County last week, with the support of the board of supervisors and in partnership with Good Samaritan Hospital.

"What we're doing is we're making sure that the gap is bridged between farmworkers and COVID-19 testing," California Farmworker Foundation Executive Director Hernan Hernandez said. "As you may know, when you go and try to get one of these testings, it's very complicated. If you go try going through the state, you have to know English, you have to have an e-mail. So we're simplifying the process."

Hernandez says data reveals that many workers in the farming industry are hesitant to get tested at a hospital or clinic because they think they may get COVID there.

But he says statistics also show that most farmworkers would get a test if it was offered at their job.

"So we know that the need is there, so now we're just trying to fill in that void," Hernandez said.

"Once they see that it's not painful, that everything is sterile, we're following all the protocols, they're more than happy to take the test," Good Samaritan Hospital volunteer Kelly Gladden said.

Details are still being finalized, but testing will soon expand to Fresno, Tulare, and Madera counties. Local governments will fund the program with CARES Act dollars.

"I think counties throughout the Central Valley recognize the value of farmworkers and they know that this is one of the most vulnerable populations, that we need to make sure that resources are available to them, and that sites like these are open for them," Hernandez said.

The California Farmworker Foundation will be in Lost Hills for a community drive-through testing event on Thursday
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.