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Coronavirus

Lawmakers press Newsom to prioritize farmworkers for vaccine

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Reps. Costa, Panetta lead a group of California Democrats appealing for equity.

Nine congressional Democrats from California are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to place a priority on farmworkers when it comes to distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

The group led by Reps. Jim Costa and Jimmy Panetta sent a letter urging Newsom to start a robust educational campaign, including linguistically accessible and culturally appropriate resources, to ensure that farm laborers feel secure in seeking out and accepting the vaccine. 

The letter also acknowledges that all levels of government must work together to protect the agricultural communities that have suffered disproportionately from the virus.

"As vaccines are distributed across our state, we must ensure everyone has access to a vaccine that needs it," said Costa, who chairs a House of Representatives subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture. "Our essential farmworkers are no exception.

"I’ve been working hard to increase vaccinations in the San Joaquin Valley and this is an important part of that effort," he said. "I’m hopeful the state will adapt its allocations to quickly protect these workers."

Advice to Newsom

The embattled Newsom is used to receiving free advice from congressional Republicans over his handling of the pandemic, as Northern California's Rep. Doug LaMalfa and others have chided him over distribution of federal COVID-19 aid to rural counties.

On Feb. 4, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., took to the House floor to complain that lockdowns nationwide have "produced skyrocketing suicides, drug and alcohol deaths, domestic homicides, isolation-related deaths, delayed health screenings and delayed health treatments and poverty related deaths."

But the slow rollout of vaccines in California and other states have received bipartisan criticism. Manual Cunha, Jr., president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League, said recently it will be incumbent upon California to ensure that farmworkers have access to both doses of the vaccines at the appropriate times before May, when it will be difficult for the employer to be without employees after receiving their vaccines.

Panetta agrees.

“As we endure this pandemic, Central Coast farmworkers have continued to show up to work despite the risk, do their job, and play a vital role in putting food on our tables,” he said. “As many farmworkers follow the harvest and flow back into our agriculture communities, the state of California must take into account the increased numbers to ensure proper vaccine distribution. 

"We are asking the state to work closely with us and our local communities so that there are enough vaccines and educational resources for everyone, especially our essential agricultural workers, to get vaccinated," he said. "Although farmworkers continue to do the hard work necessary for our food security, all of us must work together so that they can do it safely and our communities can get on the road to recovery."

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