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Sacramento, Calif. (July 15, 2020) – As COVID-19 cases spike across California, the Latinx community continues to be one of the hardest hit populations. Latinos are 39 percent of the state’s population, but 55 percent of all people infected with COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health. Many work on the front lines of essential professions, which includes farming. For this reason, Dignity Health Woodland Memorial Hospital, the Yolo County Department of Public Health and Durst Organic Growers recently came together to help provide COVID-19 testing for 106 migrant farm workers.
Woodland Memorial Hospital’s Community Health Educator, Herman Varela, is an advocate for the Latinx community within and outside of the hospital walls. Recognizing the tremendous effects COVID-19 was having on this community, Herman quickly mobilized hospital leaders and staff in order to bring awareness, education and resources to those that needed it the most. This included helping James Durst, CEO, Farm Director and the dozens of migrant workers he employs.
“Yolo County coordinated the tests with support from American Medical Response (AMR) who administered the tests, while the Yolo County group of Promotoras ‘Puentes de Yolo’ and Woodland Memorial Hospital staff assisted with non-medical translation, check-in and education,” said Varela. “It was collaboration of many that helped pull off an amazing feat and I am especially proud to work for an organization that supported this effort and many more that help in breaking down long-standing systemic health and social inequities faced by minority groups.”
“Our agricultural workers are an essential part of Yolo County’s heritage, culture, and economy,” said Yolo County Public Information Officer, Jenny Tan. “Everyone in our community is important and deserves to have the opportunity to be tested for COVID-19 so that they can protect their health, their families, and their communities.”
An outbreak in an essential workplace like a large-scale farm can be detrimental first and foremost for the families impacted, but could also result in labor shortages and potential subsequent food scarcities as a result.
“We knew it was important that the testing process be simple. By having the tests performed at our work site, almost all employees participated. It was also an opportunity to also provide more education about COVID-19. Knowledge is power when it comes to communicable diseases, especially this virus,” said Durst. “Employees have been receiving tail-gate trainings weekly regarding sanitation, masks, distancing, and proper hygiene. Employees are the lifeblood of any organization and each job on our farm is important, and everyone contributes to the success of our business. My hope is more employers follow suit in doing what they can to keep their employees healthy and well.”
One COVID-19 policy at Durst Organic Growers is if someone gets sick or is feeling ill, they will continue to pay the employees wages for time needed to recuperate, even if it is not coronavirus. This policy assures employees don’t come to work sick out of fear they won’t get paid while taking needed time off to get well.
Thankfully, it is a reality Durst or his employees currently will not have to face as none of the 106 tested on Friday, July 10 tested positive for COVID-19.
Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care systems, is a multi-state network of 10,000 physicians, more than 60,000 employees, 41 acute care hospitals, and 400-plus care-centers including neighborhood hospitals, urgent care, surgery and imaging centers, home health, and primary care clinics. Headquartered in San Francisco, Dignity Health is dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality, and affordable patient-centered care with special attention to the poor and underserved. In FY 2019, Dignity Health provided more than $1.1 billion in patient financial assistance, unreimbursed costs of Medicaid, community health improvement services, and other community benefits. For more information, please visit our website at www.dignityhealth.org.
For information about Yolo County’s response to COVID-19, visit: www.yolocounty.org/coronavirus-roadmap. Residents can also call Yolo 2-1-1 for resource information. For additional updates follow Yolo County on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/YoloCounty/ or Twitter at: https://twitter.com/YoloCountyCA.