Things That Matter

Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

Every day, California farmworkers worry that the pandemic plowing through agricultural hubs will catch them and kill them. They also worry that not working will kill them. Now, there is further evidence that their worries are grounded in reality.

A recent survey – the Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) – points out the grim reality this vulnerable community faces as they work to support the nation’s ongoing need for food services.

California’s farmworker community – now considered essential – is being hit hard by the Coronavirus.

California’s agricultural communities have been hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. From Imperial County along the U.S.-Mexico border to Fresno County in the Central Valley, these counties are also home to large migrant communities who are considered ‘essential workers’ as they work California’s farms and ranches.

As new details emerge, a grim picture of the virus among farmworkers is emerging. The Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) reinforces the dire warnings that farmworker advocacy organizations made when the coronavirus lockdowns began: The least protected essential workers in the country, toiling under environmental conditions like excessive heat, pollution and dust, are being devastated by the coronavirus, directly and indirectly. 

Now, five months into the pandemic, infection rates are spiking. Fresno County is experiencing 435 cases for every 100,000 residents; in Tulare it’s 472 and in Merced it’s 564. The statewide average: 269.

Though county figures say about 31% of overall cases are in the Latino community, some on the front lines estimate that up to 70% of cases from the recent spike have hit in that demographic, in a region where they account for about 42% of the population, according to census figures. Experts agree that official case counts across the state may be low because of testing problems.

And experts agree that fighting Covid-19 in the Central Valley could be an uphill battle. Many farmworkers live in crowded, dorm-like buildings. And thanks to a hostile government, many migrants are fearful of seeking any sort of medical or legal or financial help. Many of the people most at risk do not speak English and are traditionally hard for government to reach. Therefore, packing plants have emerged as coronavirus clusters in parts of the state.

The state is struggling to get a hold on the outbreak but officials have launched a new program they hope will have an impact.

The recent spike in infection rates within the Central Valley has drawn national attention, and now seems to have the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom. His administration is dispatching three of his Coronavirus ‘strike teams’ to the region to help local officials track cases of Covid-19, inspect workplaces, quarantine the sick, and ramp up testing within vulnerable groups.

Each team, consisting of about a dozen experts on health, housing, public outreach, agriculture and other fields, will try to contain an alarming spread through the region. Much of their work will focus on the San Joaquin Valley, where agricultural fields and crowded food-processing plants have become fertile ground for the virus.

“If you asked me today what our biggest area of concern in a state as large as ours, it is indeed the Central Valley,” Newsom said recently in announcing the deployment. “We need to do more for our agricultural and farmworkers.”

In addition to the strike team, the state is allocating $52 million in federal money to help improve testing and contact tracing within the valley. It’s also spending $6 million in private donations to buy food and other basics for low-income Valley residents whose livelihoods have been threatened by the pandemic.

But for many farmworkers, despite the risk, they have little choice but to continue to work.

Credit: Brent Stirton / Getty Images

California’s farmworkers have long been one of the state’s most vulnerable communities. Now that the pandemic has ravaged the state’s economy, migrant farmworkers are considered ‘essential workers’ and are exempt from many of the protective lockdown orders, forcing them to risk their health while at work.

Meanwhile, the collapse of food service (restaurants and institutions) has le to the shutdown of farms across the state and roughly 20% of farm jobs have been cut – that amounts to nearly 100,000 workers. Those who are still working have largely seen their hours cut. So for many, they have little choice but to return to a dangerous job or risk juggling bills and going hungry.

On the job, however, workers lack control of their own safety. Fewer than half of those surveyed said they had received masks from their employers. Even among those who had, they had received them once or a couple of times. (Farmworkers generally wear face coverings to protect themselves from pesticide dust, dirt and the sun. More than 95 percent of those surveyed said they are masked in the fields.) 

Social distancing is still an idea, not a reality, for many of those surveyed. In some cases, farmworkers who asked for better protections, such as more distancing in the fields, or hand sanitizer, have faced retaliation. Crew bosses have punished them by cutting their hours or days, advocates said. 

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The Man Who Charmed The World With His Dog Chiquilina Says She’s The Greatest Love Of His Life

Culture

The Man Who Charmed The World With His Dog Chiquilina Says She’s The Greatest Love Of His Life

Dave Minsky / Santa Maria Times / Getty Images

Thanks to TikTok, the world is getting to know a bit more about Guillermo Hernandez and his pup, Chiquilina. The pair went viral on TikTok (and across the Internet) for their video outside a California carniceria: the terrier happily wagging its tail as it rides a rocking, coin-operated horse while its owner does a little dance to the backdrop of The Ronettes song, “Be My Baby.”

The video became an instant hit as it made its rounds around the Internet, racking up more than 8 million views and 2 million likes on TikTok alone. Now, Hernandez – the proud pup papi – is speaking out about his new found viral fame and giving us faith in humanity once again.

Guillermo Hernandez and his perrita, Chiquilina, have captured the heart of the Internet in new viral video.

A viral video has caused a sensation on TikTok and other social networks for showing a dog wagging her tail happily while riding a mechanical horse, while her owner watches on proudly.

The video was captured by TikTok user @frenchielife805, who saw the pair by chance when she was waiting in her car for the traffic light to change at a nearby intersection. “I go crazy for animals. I have two dogs that are like my babies,” confessed this mother and proud owner of two French bulldog dogs in an interview with the Santa Maria Times.

The video is truly what we all needed right now: pure amor.

Within hours of being posted online, the video blew up and the world came to know Guillermo Hernandez, 53, and Chiquilina, his 10-year-old Terrier cross dog that he has had since she was a puppy.

“I love her more than my life,” Hernandez told the Santa Maria Times, an emotion that many pet owners can identify with. “She is my doctor, my baby, my therapist,” he added.

A native of Michoacán, Mexico, Hernandez moved to the city of Santa Maria in 1985 and worked throughout the state of California in the construction industry for a long time until he was declared disabled by law and unable to continue performing such intense work. Now, he spends his days biking with his Chiquilina up on his head or hanging out with his friends outside the spot where they went viral.

The pair are well known in the area for their loving relationship.

Consuelo Valle, the owner of the shop where they were filmed, told the Santa Maria Times that “he loves his dog very much, he considers her as his family. She is always riding on his shoulder or being carried in his basket. He buys her popsicles, treats and ice cream. He talks to her and asks her what flavor of lollipop she wants.”

Both the TikToker who filmed their loving relationship and Valle said that the man’s incredible relationship with his dog raised their spirits and encouraged them to take better care of their own pets.

“The way in which he is happy with his dog, teaches us that we can all be happy in many different ways,” remarked Valle. While the TikToker @frenchielife805 said although has no idea why their video became went so viral, what she is sure of is that so far in the pandemic, people are always looking for any reason to smile.

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The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Things That Matter

The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Hector Villas / Getty Images

Since the very beginning of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has largely downplayed the severity of the crisis. Despite record-setting deaths across Mexico, the president continued to hold large rallies, rarely uses face masks and continues to be very hands on with his supporters. Many of his detractors grouped him in with Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jaír Bolsonaro in his poor response to the pandemic.

Mexico’s President AMLO has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing light symptoms.

In a tweet on Sunday evening, AMLO revealed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. From his official Twitter account, he said his symptoms were mild and that he was receiving medical treatment.

“I regret to inform you that I have contracted Covid-19. The symptoms are mild, but I am already receiving medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will move forward,” Lopez Obrador wrote.

Despite his diagnosis, the president plans to continue business as usual. He plans to continue with his duties from the Palacio Nacional, which include conducting a planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine Monday. He added on Twitter, that “I will be conducting all public affairs from the National Palace. For example, tomorrow I will take a call from President Vladimir Putin, because irrespective of friendly relationships, there is a possibility that they will send us the Sputnik V vaccine.”

AMLO has taken a very hands off approach to his country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

AMLO, 67-years-old, has rarely been seen wearing a mask and continued to travel extensively across the country aboard commercial flights – putting both his health and those around him at risk.

He has also resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on so many Mexicans who live day to day. And because of that, Mexico has one of the highest death rates in the world. Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, AMLO removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly showed them off.

“The protective shield is the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” AMLO said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.”

In November, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, urged Mexico’s leaders be serious about the coronavirus and set examples for its citizens, saying that “Mexico is in bad shape” with the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to experience the worst effects yet of the global health crisis.

Credit: Ismael Rosas / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Thanks to a lack of national leadership, Mexico is one of the 17 countries that has reported more than one million cases of Covid-19. Since early October, newly confirmed cases and deaths have been reaching record levels, with recent daily numbers some of the highest since the beginning the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has recorded at least 1,752,347 Covid-19 cases and 149,084 people have died from the virus in the country.

In hardest-hit Mexico City, nearly 30 public hospitals report they have reached 100% percent capacity, and many others are approaching that mark. The city’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has urged residents to not go out unless absolutely necessary. In December, Mexico City and the state of Mexico were placed into “red level,” the highest measure on the country’s stoplight alert system for Covid-19 restrictions. The tighter measures included the closure of indoor dining, with only essential sectors like transport, energy, health and construction remaining open.

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