As Florida continues to surge in coronavirus cases, farmworkers are the most vulnerable community in the state.
“I don’t know if it was ignorance, negligence, or his close relationship with the President in wanting to satisfy his impulses,” Antonio Tovar, from the Farmworker Association of Florida, said in an interview with The Americano about the inflammatory allegations that Gov. Ron DeSantis made against Latino farmworkers.
“But I don’t think it was ignorance,” he added. “More like racism.”
It was back in June that DeSantis accused Latino farmworkers of spreading COVID-19.
“Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission,” the Republican governor said during a press conference in Tallahassee.
According to Tovar, since the start of the pandemic the community of farmworkers in Florida has been trying to survive the loss jobs, home schooling their kids and much more, all the while enduring DeSantis’ mismanagement and misinformation.
Studies have shown that Black and Latinos are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, and it’s because of that tragic statistic that 2.5 million farmworkers in the U.S. are in danger of getting sick.
The lack of healthcare within the farmworker community makes it more of a disaster. An estimated 47% of agricultural workers have health coverage, compared to 91.5% of the general population, the Department of Labor reports.
In Tovar’s experience, Latin farmworkers are scared and under extreme pressure. They have no other choice but to work to survive—yet they’re afraid of contamination while managing the school year with their kids.
“They are depressed, they are worried,” Tovar said.
In June, more than 120 members of the House Democratic Caucus called on Congressional leadership to include protection and financial assistance for farmworkers in future legislation to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this crisis, our frontline farmworkers are laboring every day to put food on America’s dinner table and maintain the world food supply,” the Democrats stated. “As this virus threatens the resiliency of our food supply chains, it has never been more important to ensure the well-being of our agricultural producers and workforce.”
Tovar said that had Gov. DeSantis made better choices, including providing accurate information about COVID-19 in Spanish, kept the state closed for a more extended period, and offered adequate testing, Floridians wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in today.
“He didn’t use his power to prevent the spread,” he concluded.