Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new effort during his press conference on Friday to protect essential workers in the state, including California's 625,000 agriculture and farmworkers.
The issue of protecting farmworkers hits especially close to home in Central California. The majority of farmworkers are Latino and the outbreak of COVID-19 among the Hispanic population in Tulare County has been quite evident.
At his press conference on Friday, Newsom said new steps would be taken to protect essential works such as farmworkers, construction workers, cooks, laborers, food prep workers, truck drivers and cashiers. Newsom noted in many of those professions the majority of workers are Latino.
Newsom didn't hold back when saying where the spread of COVID-19 was happening in the state. "When people ask, as they often do, where are we seeing the spread — this is where we're seeing spread: the essential workforce, disproportionately represented by the Latin community," the governor said.
Fifty-five percent of the state's COVID-19 cases are Latino and that's reflected in Tulare County. Hispanics in Tulare County represent the highest number of cases in Tulare County by far.
There have been 4,039 cases in Tulare County who have been Hispanic. The next highest group is caucasian at 820.
So close to half of the county's 8,210 cases have been Hispanic. The county reported the ethnicity of 3,098 cases is still unknown.
Newsom said new safeguards are being introduced to reduce coronavirus transmission among essential workers. A big key is making sure essential workers who are sick or exposed have a place to self-quarantine so they don't further spread the virus.
With that in mind Newsom said the state will expand Project Roomkey, which provides housing in hotels for the homeless. That program will be expanded to allow agricultural and farmworkers to self-isolate in hotels.
Newsom also said his executive orders establishing COVID-19 paid sick leave and workers' compensation for at-risk workers are being extended.
More detailed guidelins for employers will also be offered which the state will enforce, Newsom said.
A new safety handbook is also being made available to all employers when it comes to making their businesses safe for their employees. The safety handbook can be found here: https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/employer-playbook-for-safe-reopening--en.pdf