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Monterey County sees spike in COVID-19 cases among farm workers

ag worker

SALINAS, Calif. (KION)

A recent report from the California Institute of Rural Studies shows Ag Industry workers are three times more likely to contract COVID-19 than workers in other professions.

That number of infected workers grew to more than 1,000 in the past month. Between March and July 1st, 605 positive cases were reported among farm workers in Monterey County.

A member of the United Farm Workers and and Monterey County Supervisor, Luis Alejo, describe different reasons for the new jump in cases.

Alejo says the amount of new workers coming into the industry who later test positive could be contributing to the rise in case numbers.

Lauro Barajas, a director for the United Farm Workers says what employees do outside of the workplace could also have an impact to the COVID-19 spread.

"“In some houses, there’s 10 or more people living in one house, they take the bus or ride with someone else who’s working in the same company and when they work, they work close by the others," says Barajas.

Monterey County became the model for the state when issuing farm worker safety guidelines.

However, Barajas and Alejo say not all companies follow the rules.

"“When the workers become sick, they try to hide it. For sure, it needs to be mandatory that companies cannot ignore it and they need to do the test immediately," says Barajas.

Right now, testing at workplaces is not mandatory, but Alejo and Barajas say this needs to change.

Alejo says the county will be working with companies to step up testing efforts for farm workers and other essential workers.

Central Coast / Coronavirus / Health / Top Stories

Jocelyn Ortega

Jocelyn Ortega is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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