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State Sending COVID Team to Fresno & Madera Counties as Harvest Begins
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 4 years ago on
July 29, 2020

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The state is sending a team to help battle the number of rising COVID-19 infections in Fresno and Madera counties.

“Fresno County would have an allocation of about $10 million of that.” — Fresno County Health Director David Pomaville

Fresno County calls it a “unified support” team that will collaborate with leaders here to best determine where and how they deploy.

Fresno County officials also confirm that part of the $52 million in federal money the state is allocating to eight Central Valley counties will help the areas here that need it most.

“Fresno County would have an allocation of about $10 million of that,” Fresno County Health Director David Pomaville said Tuesday afternoon during a Zoom call with media.

The eight counties are home to more than 4 million people, including many poor Hispanics, a group that makes up a disproportionately large portion of the sate’s coronavirus cases.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the current infection rates in the eight counties — Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Tulare, and Stanislaus — range from about 11% to 18%. In contrast, the state average is about 7.5%.

[covid-19-tracker]

Farmworkers Migrate to Valley for Harvest Season

The state support comes at a critical time.

Armando Elenes, secretary-treasurer of United Farm Workers, said the spike in infections in the Central Valley coincides with thousands of migrant workers arriving for the harvest season.

He said temporary agriculture workers coming in on H2A visas are not being tested and properly vetted. He also said that workers already in the country are too afraid to speak up if they feel sick because they are not assured sick pay and are afraid of retaliation.

“Fifty percent or more of the agriculture workers are undocumented and the H2A workers are petrified to say anything because they are afraid they might not be brought back the following year. It’s just a recipe for disaster,” Elenes said.

Farm workers in California field
“Fifty percent or more of the agriculture workers are undocumented and the H2A workers are petrified to say anything (about feeling ill) because they are afraid they might not be brought back the following year. It’s just a recipe for disaster,” said Armando Elenes, secretary-treasurer for the UFW. (Shutterstock)

Role of the Unified Support Team

The teams of state workers will assist local public health, community, and medical organizations to improve testing, contact tracing, public education, and hospital surge planning.

Specifically, the teams will assess outbreaks in factories, nursing homes, high-density housing, and agricultural settings.

“I know that they want to hear from us about what challenges we have,” said Pomaville.

Specifically, the teams will assess outbreaks in factories, nursing homes, high-density housing, and agricultural settings.

It’s not yet known how many people are on the team, and what specialties each of the team members will bring to the table.

Fresno County interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra has not yet heard when to expect this team, or how long it will stay.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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