SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a $52 million investment in eight Central Valley counties hard-hit by the coronavirus.
Newsom said that the money would specifically help the counties with isolation, quarantine, and testing protocols. It would also provide more support for health workers and as well as hire more workers.
The money comes from the $499 million grant from the CDC, Newsom says.
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Monday’s announcement is in line with Newsom’s pledge on Friday to do more to protect farmworkers, grocery clerks, and other essential workers — many of whom are Latino — from the health and economic harms of the coronavirus as the infection spreads through their communities.
“Not enough focus, candidly, has been placed on essential workers in this state,” Newsom said during his daily news conference.
Among Newsom’s plans: Provide temporary housing for infected workers who need to isolate from their families; expand paid sick leave and workers compensation benefits; expand a state public awareness campaign around mask usage; give new guidance to employers and require them to report outbreaks of the virus to their local health departments.
Latinos make up 39% of California’s population but 55% of confirmed positive coronavirus cases, according to state data. They account for 45% of the deaths, more than any other group. The majority of farmworkers, construction workers, cooks, food prep workers, truck drivers, cashiers, and janitors are Latino, Newsom said.
Many farmworkers still don’t have access to appropriate masks and protective equipment, and many are afraid to get tested for the virus because it could force them to stop working, said Armando Valdez, who runs a nonprofit in Fresno and has been working with farmworkers and other families in the area during the pandemic.
“If you do it and become positive you’re not going to have any food on your table, but if you continue you most likely can either die of this or infect other people,” he said.
He said much of the state and federal virus relief money has been tied up in bureaucracy or run through organizations that aren’t the closest to the ground. Many workers are still getting evicted despite state policies designed to prevent it right now, and at some farms workers still aren’t getting enough protective equipment, he said. His organization made and distributed more than 4,000 masks.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)