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The Hispanic Heritage Foundation will honor farmworkers, a group disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

One of the hardest-hit communities affected by the pandemic continues to be the farmworkers of this country. These essential workers never stopped working despite putting their health and lives at risk—and now they are being honored for it. On Aug. 25, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) announced they would recognize farmworkers across the country with the Heroes Award during the 33rd annual Hispanic Heritage Awards. 

“It is with tremendous gratitude, pride, and admiration that we honor farmworkers with the Heroes Award this year,” Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, said. “Every single time we take a bite of food, we should think about the importance of our farmworkers in our lives, especially during the COVID-19 crisis as they put themselves and their families at risk to nobly nourish our families. Their service is nothing short of heroic.”

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An estimated 2–3 million farmworkers live and work in the US. While there is no comprehensive data about the exact COVID-19 cases among farmworkers in the country, the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) reports that several clusters in various parts of the country have been detected. Hundreds of cases have been reported in farm labor camps, including in Arizona, California, Illinois, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Colorado, Missouri, and New Jersey. 

As of mid-June, Florida is experiencing large outbreaks among farmworkers. In the farm labor community of Immokalee, more than 1,000 positive cases were documented in recent weeks, and the area has one of the highest infection rates in the state. 

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Overcrowded and substandard housing conditions are some of the reasons why farmworkers are incredibly susceptible to COVID-19, according to the NCFH. They also have limited access to restrooms and sinks, at home and in the field. Farmworkers also have very low annual incomes and a widespread lack of access to health insurance, which limits their access to health care. 

“Farmworkers have always been at risk of illness and harm, but that risk has increased exponentially with COVID-19,” Mónica Ramírez, president of Justice for Migrant Women, said. “Their work conditions make it nearly impossible for farmworkers to be able to abide by the social distancing, handwashing, and other requirements that health care professionals say are necessary to prevent the transmission of the illness. Farmworkers deserve this prestigious recognition along with respect and appreciation for feeding us every day.”

On Oct. 6, PBS stations and PBS.org will stream the 33rd Hispanic Heritage Awards.