Agricultural workers should also get the vaccine first

Didn’t we enjoy the fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions to prepare our salads?

Didn’t we count on fresh grapefruits, oranges, and apples to fix our smoothies?

Didn’t we emit a sigh of relief when we saw the well-stocked supermarket stalls?

Didn’t we pray to God Almighty to thank him/her/ihr for living in the USA?

Yes, we all did. But that bounty did not materialize only because the Holy Spirit touched the right elbow of our dear friend Todd Jones, enlightened CEO of Publix Supermarkets (with all due respect for his religious beliefs)

No, it happened because thousands of poor migrant farmers, usually born in Central America, toiled tirelessly first in Florida in the summer and then went up North. A similar phenomenon took place in California and Oregon.

On December 17, 2010, the 5 o’clock news program of Telemundo transmitted the words of the spokesperson of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a union founded in 1993 to defend the rights of thousands of migrant workers in Southwest Florida. Immokalee, on the western edge of the Everglades, has been dubbed as the Winter Tomato Capital of the World, producing that delicious fruit for U.S. consumers. He denounced that migrant workers were hard hit by the Covid 19 epidemic and he asked for more state and federal resources to assist them, no matter their legal status.

On June 18, 20120, Patricia Mazzei, a reporter for The New York Times, wrote: “Florida’s agricultural communities have become cradles of infection, fueling a worrying new spike in the state’s daily toll in new infections, which has hit new records in recent days. The implications go far beyond Florida; case numbers in places like Immokalee are swelling just as many farmworkers are migrating up the Eastern Seaboard for the summer harvest.” The migrant workers spend an unusually big amount of time with large groups in the fields and then go back to cramped living quarters, with family members and/or friends sharing makeshift bunk beds.  

The reporter was surprised to see a crew of Doctors without Borders, an aid group largely associate in our minds with major meteorological disasters or cruel wars, setting shop in the central market of the small city to inform and help people in need. The Public Health picture looked unusually grim six months ago, when she paid a visit, but now it is even worse, with many infected migrant workers in the neighboring hospitals and several of them already dead.

However, right now, we have one (and possibly two) good vaccines that are ready to be quickly deployed in the most affected areas of our society. We, health care workers, are grateful that we are at the top of the waiting list to be inoculated asap.

But shouldn’t that privilege also be extended to those unusually exposed because they feed us?

Vaccinate the migrant workers quickly and efficiently to achieve good immunity. Those critical workers of the food chain must be protected for their (and our) sake.

Justice for the migrant agricultural workers. Vaccinate them first at no extra charge.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Increased COVID-19 infection in Hispanics

In the USA there has been heated discussions about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected different socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural groups. Hispanics constitute 18% of the country’s population—representing its largest ethnic and racial minority group—but they account for one in three—33%—of all the confirmed Covid-19 cases where the appropriate data has been collected. They have the highest age-adjusted rates of Covid-19 hospitalizations at 117 per 100,000 and the highest rate of mortality—one in five of the confirmed Covid-19 related deaths with good data.

Carlos E, Rodriguez et al., from the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University and other institutions, studied the publicly available datasets to determine “the differences in county-level characteristics of counties with a greater share of Latino residents that the U.S. average (more than 17.8% of Latino population) compared to all other counties (less than 17.8% of Latino population) Additionally, we examined the association between the proportion of Latino residents and Covid-19 cases and deaths.” The County-level collected data included the following information:

  1. County population
  2. Percentage of Latinos
  3. Percent of residents aged more than 65 years old
  4. Percent of residents under 35 years old
  5. Percent of the under-65 population without health insurance
  6. Occupants per room
  7. Language spoken at home
  8. Ability to speak English

“Fourteen percent of U.S. counties (443/3143) are disproportionately Latino. As of May 11, there were 700.169 Covid-19 cases and 42,674 Covid-19 deaths in disproportionately Latino counties. Up to 91.2% of disproportionately Latino counties (404/443) reported a Covid-19 and 54.4% (241/443) reported a death versus 92% (2484/2700) and 49.4% (1335/2700) in all the other counties.” The incidence of the infection increased with a higher proportion of Latinos, especially in the Midwest and the Northeast regions of the country. The researchers found in the disproportionately Latino counties the following features:

  1. A younger population
  2. Lack of health insurance
  3. Greater number of individuals per room in each household
  4. Fewer number of monolingual English-speaking Latinos
  5. Greater number of monolingual Spanish—speaking or bilingual

Hispanics are disproportionately young and usually work in service industries—like the meatpacking plants—that, deemed as “essential” by the authorities, did not close during the pandemic and were more likely to expose their workers to infection as they demanded the physical presence of many workers clustered in small spaces. The monolingual Spanish speakers were more likely to be healthier, younger, and without the legal residency documents, which limited their access to health care. Moreover the undocumented immigrants are less likely to get the proper testing due to lack of insurance, inadequate coverage, and the ever-present fear of deportation.

The researchers call for more focused and committed policy planning responses to confront the Covid-19 epidemic in Latino communities, as due to structural barriers, the same polices for the general population might be not be as effective with them. They suggest expanding the access to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) programs for qualified non-citizens because Hispanics usually work in jobs that do not offer employer sponsored insurance and they have difficulty navigating the meandering modern yet highly fragmented health care delivery in the USA. The occupational risk in Latino communities should be studied with reliable data that, not only captures information for laboratory purposes, but also for hospitalizations and death certificates.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.