( File photo )

The state of California is looking to build on the success of the Grower Shipper Association of Central California’s quarantined housing program with an expanded statewide effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in rural areas.

Governor Gavin Newsom said the new state program, Housing for the Harvest, will provide safe, temporary isolation spaces for farm workers who test positive or were exposed to the virus. That, he said in a July 24 news release, will limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 to coworkers or households. 

The state program will operate in partnership with counties and local partners in the farming communities of the state’s Central Valley, Central Coast, and Imperial Valley, according to the release. Newsom did not reveal the cost for the program.

“We all must continue to work diligently to protect essential employees who are integral to supplying food to consumers and are invaluable to growing, nurturing and harvesting fruits and vegetables,” Chris Valadez, president of the grower shipper association, said in a news release. 

The association began its quarantined housing program in April and provides housing for workers who are symptomatic, tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, according to the release.

The association’s quarantined housing protects the health of farm workers as well as their families and housemates, according to the release. They receive daily food deliveries and other necessities as well as regular health checks coordinated through Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. The program has served about 215 residents to date, the association reported July 27.


Central Valley focus

In a July 27 announcement, Newsom said that eight Central Valley counties – Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern – will receive $52 million for testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine efforts. 

In the Central Valley, where between 41% to 65% of any given county is Latino, there are a disproportionate number of COVID-19 Latino deaths compared to population, according to the release. In Fresno County, for example, Latinos comprise 52.6% of the population and account for 65% of COVID-19 deaths.

“The data is clear that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting Latinos in California,” Newsom said in the release. “The rising community transmission rates we are seeing, particularly among Latinos in the Central Valley, are concerning. This is alarming and we are taking action.”

Newsom said $52 million has been allocated for Central Valley counties to support local public health department efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
In collaboration with local partners, the state will send what the release called Unified Support Teams into the eight Central Valley counties to support and boost efforts to reduce transmission, according to the release.

The state’s targeted efforts are funded in part with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has provided California $499 million to support the state’s response to COVID-19, of which $286 million is being made available to local governments in their efforts to fight COVID-19. Nearly $52 million of these funds will go to eight counties in the Central Valley — Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare, according to the release.

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