Things That Matter

A Deadly Virus Is Back With A Vengeance And It’s Hitting Our Farmworker Community The Hardest

Farmworkers face dangerous and even life-threatening conditions each and every day they’re at work. It’s a seriously difficult job to do but so many of our country’s most at-risk people are the ones doing it.

Our nation’s farmworkers face discrimination, refusal of payment, immigration crackdowns, physical injury, and now – according to an NBC report – an outbreak of valley fever.

This outbreak of valley fever has the potential to be deadly for farmworkers.

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A new NBC News report details the story of Victor Gutierrez, who contracted valley fever, a dangerous fungal disease. Victor was suffering from flu-like symptoms – coughing, night sweats, exhaustion, and a strange feeling that he was burning up on the inside. He ignored the symptoms and kept working so that he wouldn’t lose his job but eventually the illness caught up with him and he was struggling to breathe.

The next day, Gutierrez’s lungs filled up with fluid and he felt so sick that he went to a local clinic. This time, they tested him for valley fever, and it came back positive.

He told NBC News: “The nurse called me and told me to rush to the clinic because it was an emergency.” They told him he might only have six months to live.

While Gutierrez managed to beat those odds by taking the antifungal medication fluconazole for more than a year, he has seen valley fever kill many other people he’s known.

The worst of the valley fever outbreak is happening where nearly two-thirds of our nuts and fruits come from – putting a huge amount of workers at risk along with our economy.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

In California, rates of new cases rose 10 percent in just one year. The state budget has $8 million for valley fever research, while about $3 million will go to the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical Center, in the heart of the growing threat.

These figures pale in comparison to the actual costs associated with valley fever. In 2011, California spent approximately $2.2 billion in valley fever-related hospital expenses.

Climate change has been singled out as a possible cause for the outbreaks.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Coccidioidomycosis or cocci (pronounced “coxy”), the fungus that causes valley fever, thrives in dry, undisturbed soil. It becomes airborne when that soil is disturbed – whether it’s by dirt bikes, construction crews, or farmers putting in a new fruit or nut orchard. It can travel on the wind as far as 75 miles away. Years of climate change-fueled drought and a 240 percent increase in dust storms appear to have led to a swift rise in the number of people diagnosed with the illness across the Southwest.

Adding to the threat of valley fever is that 49% of farmworkers are undocumented and unlikely to seek medical care for fear of deportation.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Like 68 percent of the estimated 800,000 farmworkers in California, Gutierrez was born in Mexico. An estimated 49 percent of the state’s farmworkers lack work authorization and most live under the federal poverty line in unincorporated communities with few public services.

Undocumented residents are far less likely to visit a doctor or a hospital, even for urgent medical care. This puts an already at-risk group of people at greater risk of health complications.

Other’s are forced to make a choice between eating or medicine.

Like many farmworkers who contract the illness, Gutierrez found the cost of the antifungal medication needed to treat valley fever totally unaffordable. At the height of the illness, it cost $1,200 for two months of pills because he had to take two to three times as many as one would if they were treating a typical candida infection.

He didn’t have insurance at the time and said his family often had to choose between food and his medication. He still isn’t able to work regularly and his family mainly survives on the money his wife, Maria, makes in the fields.

People took to Twitter to worry about what this meant for the state and its farmworkers.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

With more than 800,000 at-risk farmworkers, people who work in the fields to help deliver foods to plates across the country, this is an urgent problem.

Valley fever could leave large groups of the community unable to work.

While some offered up first-hand experience on their battle with valley fever.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Although valley fever is often mild with no symptoms, it has the potential to be deadly – especially in at-risk groups. Symptoms include fatigue, cough, fever, night sweats and can progress to painful skin lesions and fluid-filled lungs.

Thankfully, vaccines are in the works but they won’t be a silver bullet.

Credit: @NBCNews / Twitter

Two vaccines are in the works – at the University of Texas and the University of Arizona – but it’s not clear how close they are to being tested on humans.

Three members of Congress from the Southwest last month introduced a federal bill, the FORWARD Act, in an effort to increase public awareness of the disease while “promoting the development of novel treatments and a vaccine.”

Nurse Shares Heartfelt Video Explaining Why She Had To Quit Her Job During The COVID-19 Outbreak

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Nurse Shares Heartfelt Video Explaining Why She Had To Quit Her Job During The COVID-19 Outbreak

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The COVID-19 health crisis is shutting down governments around the world. The global infection rate crossed 1 million on April 2 and continues to climb. In the U.S., nurses and doctors are facing severe equipment shortages leaving many of the front-line workers vulnerable to contracting the virus, which has already killed more than 5,780 Americans. One nurse shared a heartbreaking video of her explaining why she had to quit her job as the crisis continues to unfold.

Imaris is a nurse in Chicago, one of the cities expected to see a high number of COVID-19 cases.

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#NURSESCAN 2020! 👩🏻‍⚕️✊🏼 So I have been off of work for about two weeks now and on my last day of work, there was only 1 confirmed #covid19 case in the county that I am working in. Today there is 130 confirmed cases, 1 death, and my city just shutdown the Lakefront and all parks. ⠀ I am scared 😥 No doubt about that. I am not sure what to expect, but I have honestly tried to keep myself at a distance from social media and the media in general; the information overload can be hard to sift through as far as what is credible and what is not, it triggers me. ⠀ I already suffer with anxiety and bi-polar depression and was feeling a heavy toll with transitioning back into the ICU after being away from the bedside for over a year. I am now feeling already defeated before walking onto the battlefield; I know this isn't the right mindset, but I am just sharing my raw emotions and thoughts with you all right now. I am hoping to have a change of morale real soon. ⠀ If there is one thing I know, it's that n̶o̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶h̶a̶p̶p̶e̶n̶s̶ without 𝓮𝓯𝓯𝓸𝓻𝓽 𝓸𝓻 𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷, so here are the three things I plan on doing to put forth my part for 𝗺𝘆𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 and how 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕔𝕒𝕟 𝕥𝕒𝕜𝕖 𝔸ℂ𝕋𝕀𝕆ℕ 𝕥𝕠𝕠 against C̶O̶V̶I̶D̶-̶1̶9̶. ⠀ 1️⃣ Keeping up with your outlets and reputable resources. Your outlets are the people you're isolating with, usually loved ones. Talk to them, talk to each other and do mental check ins. Resources I've kept up with are the World Health Organization ( @who ), and The Centers for Disease Control ( @cdcgov ). ⠀ 2️⃣ For those of you who are working at institutions running out of the #N95masks, gloves, gowns and goggles you need in order to care for the #covid_19 patients, please click the link 🔗 in my bio to notify Congress to get you #PPE ! #GETMEPPE. ⠀ 3️⃣ Join the #NursesCan campaign! 💪🏼 Inspired by the “We Can Do It!" #rosietheriveter poster, the campaign was created by @nurse.georgie to boost nurse worker moral and share stories from our modern-day nurse heroes during our country’s COVID-19 #pandemic.⁣ Link 🔗 in bio! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀

A post shared by ❥ Imaris | Nursing & Lifestyle (@nurse.iv) on

Illinois has seen an increase in cases recently. The latest numbers from Illinois show that 7,695 have tested positive for COVID-19. There have also been 157 deaths in the state.

According to her Instagram, Imaris is no stranger to the ICU and emergency situations.

As the war rages against COVID-19, hospitals and health care workers are calling for more equipment to help them fight. There is a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) including face masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves. PPEs keep the doctors and nurses safe when they are interacting with and treating sick patients.

The Chicago-based nurse took to Instagram to share her story about fighting COVID-19 and why she had to quit.

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I chose 𝓂𝓎 𝓁𝒾𝒻𝑒 today… ⠀ & my family members who have pre-existing conditions that wouldn’t get a ventilator if they contracted #COVID19 from me ⠀ I had a different idea in mind when I got to my #ICU this morning; I expected to see ALL OF OUR #NURSES & STAFF wearing #N95 masks but 𝙣𝙤 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙝𝙖𝙙 𝘼𝙉𝙔𝙏𝙃𝙄𝙉𝙂 𝙊𝙉… ⠀ Each ICU room had ‘make-shift’ ante-rooms attached to them created with plastic tarp & massive amounts of tape.. ⠀ A charge Nurse was passing out single N95 masks to nurses with a brown paper bag for them to store their mask in which was to be in inside their plastic ante-rooms & to 𝙗𝙚 𝙧𝙚-𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙧𝙚-𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙙𝙖𝙮… ⠀ I asked “well what if there’s possible contamination to that N95 mask..? What about my safety” ⠀ My manager told me “well our staff safety is our main priority right now … if we get enough masks, we may consider having staff wear surgical masks in the weeks to come..” ⠀ I replied, “But it’s Airborne… those surgical masks won’t protect us ..” ⠀ My manager then tells me “ we’ve kept up with the CDC & it is only when the COVID patient has any aerosol type treatments like a ventilator, nasal cannula, nebulizer etc that’s it’s airborne..otherwise it’s droplet ..” ⠀ I replied “& 90% of our patients are intubated, paralyzed, & positive for COVID.. people not even in the hospital environment are spreading it .. we have to assume everyone is infected..especially in the hospital environment, & 𝕟𝕠 𝕠𝕟𝕖 𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕟 𝕙𝕒𝕤 𝕒 𝕕𝕣𝕠𝕡𝕝𝕖𝕥 𝕞𝕒𝕤𝕜 𝕠𝕟” ⠀ I then told her of nurses wearing a surgical droplet masks on their units & now intubated & fighting for their lives … ⠀ Tears were streaming down my face & fog in my glasses at this point.. ⠀ I thought to myself.. 𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘳 𝘣𝘶𝘺 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘮𝘺 𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘴..? ⠀ I asked one last time pleading with tears in my eyes.. ⠀ “Can I please just wear 𝐦𝐲 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐍𝟗𝟓 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤… I understand we have a shortage but I have my OWN ” ⠀ My manager told me that they couldn’t allow me to wear it. ⠀ So I gave report, & left. ⠀ America is NOT prepared & Nurses are NOT safe. Plz DM me any telehealth jobs.

A post shared by ❥ Imaris | Nursing & Lifestyle (@nurse.iv) on

Imaris broke down what so many health care workers are currently facing. There is a shortage of the things they need to keep themselves safe. The nurse was most concerned about the lack of masks being given to nurses, 91 percent of whom are women. The lack of basic safety equipment bothered the nurse because she believes it does nothing to protect the nurses. In response, the nurse quit and warned viewers that “America is NOT prepared & Nurses are NOT safe.”

People are showing support for the nurse.

Credit: datninjachris / Instagram

If you know someone working in health care, you understand the concern for their safety. The Chicago nurse says int he video that she is scared of going home to her family without having used the protecting gear all day.

Thank a health care worker today. They could use positive energy.

READ: A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

More Than A Million Farmworkers Are Putting Themselves At Risk During The Coronavirus Pandemic And Here’s Why

Things That Matter

More Than A Million Farmworkers Are Putting Themselves At Risk During The Coronavirus Pandemic And Here’s Why

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Spring is peak farming season across the United States and it’s coming just as the Coronavirus is tearing its way across the country – impacting communities across all fifty states. With such a high demand for agricultural workers, thousands of foreign guest workers are descending on farm fields to join a labor force that has endured the hardships of crowded boarding houses, law enforcement raids, and indentured servitude for generations.

But now the workers who are critical to the nation’s food supply will face a nemesis they’ve never encountered.

Because of the Coronavirus, millions of people have been ordered to stay at home – but farmworkers are considered ‘essential workers’ and still have to work.

States like California have told residents to stay home because of the threat of COVID-19, but thousands of farmworkers are still showing up at work — while also worrying that their employers are not doing enough to protect or support them.

More than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California. Stay-at-home orders in California exempt farmworkers as essential employees. But many are undocumented, lack health insurance and don’t qualify for unemployment insurance or federal COVID-19 relief, placing the state’s estimated workforce of 420,000 in a vulnerable position.

So far, employers are doing little to protect or even inform their workers of precautions and protective measures.

Credit: @TomasOvalle / Twitter

According to a statement to NBC News from Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer at United Farm Workers, an overwhelming majority of farmworkers have not heard from their employers. “That’s really discouraging,” he said. “It’s not costing them anything except a little bit of care, a little bit of time.”

“We need to care about these workers that are doing that hard work, heavy work, dignified work, professional work,” said Elenes. “They’re the backbone of the food supply chain.”

The latest Economic Policy Institute report suggests growers “should also provide health insurance and paid sick days.”

Meanwhile, many farmworkers are already considered at high-risk for complications related to a Coronavirus infection.

Farm workers are an ageing labor force facing higher rates of respiratory disease and hypertension: all factors that would put them at greater risk for more deadly Covid-19 complications. And the masks that shield them from dust and pesticides, and that would also protect against the virus, are now in short supply for frontline workers across the world.

If they are unfortunate enough to fall ill with Covid-19, farm workers would qualify for the additional sick leave provided through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the national legislation that expanded paid leave amid the Covid-19 crisis, but most would probably struggle to pay the resulting healthcare costs. Many farm workers have no health insurance.

Organizations across the country are coming to defend farmworkers and demand protections.

The explosive growth of the novel coronavirus prompted one of the nation’s oldest farm labor organizations on Monday to push for new safety standards for thousands of the workers and demand that growers provide medical care during outbreaks.

“If it reaches the agricultural community, it will devastate them,” said Baldemar Velasquez, founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. “There won’t be a safety net,” he told Buzzfeed News.

Velasquez, who founded the advocacy group in 1967, said he is requesting that workers abide by social distancing rules, request isolation quarters if they get sick, and ensure their employers take them to hospitals.

If the growers refuse, Velasquez, who has led farm labor strikes, said his group is prepared to file lawsuits. “These are among the most vulnerable workers in the country,” he told Buzzfeed News. “It’s a national problem.”

The recent stimulus bill passed by Congress could offer some hope to a minority of farmworkers.

Credit: Ariana Drehlser / Getty

Lawmakers signed a $3 trillion stimulus package last week to combat the coronavirus. While the aid will help many families, it excludes many farmworkers.

At least 50 percent of all farmworkers are undocumented, according to United Farm Workers. Even though the government considers them essential workers, they will most likely be ineligible for the relief payment most U.S. households will receive.

The bill does provide that guest workers receive emergency sick pay — but it’s up to the farmers to provide protections, including social distancing and any facilities they build for quarantine.

If there’s any positive out of this, it’s that people may start caring more about farmworkers rights.

The coronavirus crisis prompted renewed attention to farmworkers’ critical role as residents often find empty supermarket shelves cleaned out by people stockpiling food supplies and sheltering in place.

These workers are essential today to the food supply — they’ve always been, but now there’s a new level of light shining on them. If people are fighting over toilet paper, imagine if they had to fight for food.