Each Worker in this US Farm has Tested Positive for COVID-19
A Tennessee farm recently distributed tests for COVID-19 to all of its workers. This initiative took place after one of the farmworkers was infected with the virus. As a result of the distribution of tests, each of the farm's around 200 workers had reportedly been infected.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, specifically at the Gloucester County Farm, over 50 farm workers contracted the virus. The number is an addition to almost 60 individuals who fell ill in nearby Salem County. More so, Yami County of the state an agricultural area with apples, pears, and cherries as the main produce, reportedly "has the highest per capita contagion rate of any nation on the West Coast."
A threat to Food Supply
The outbursts of the infection brought by the pandemic highlight the latest threat to the food supply. Essentially, farmworkers fall ill, and spreading the illness as the country "is headed for the peak of the summer produce season," reports said. Possibly, also according to reports, the cases will continue to rise as over 500,000 seasonal workers are crowding onto buses to go from one farm to another across the nation, and get sheltered together in overcrowded bunkhouse-type dorms.
Moreover the early widespread of the virus has already begun drawing comparisons to the contagions that have now spread in the meat industry across the country over the last couple of months. Experts and analysts have cautioned that thousands of workers at the farm not just in the areas mentioned but throughout the western part of the country are susceptible to contracting the virus.
Aside from the most urgent anxiety, the serious threat that farmhands are currently facing are the outbreaks that could also generate shortages in labor, a report says, "at the worst possible time." Farm products like berries don't last long, with just a few weeks during which one can harvest them. Say, a farm does not have enough people to work and collect the crops during the short period they should only last, they are then done for the season and surely rot.
Also, the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases among farm workers may result in shortages of some farm products at the grocery shops, not to mention, higher costs.
Watching Very Nervously
According to Northwest Workers' Justice Project executive director, Michael Dale, they are "watching very, very nervously." He said so since the agricultural harvest season is just starting now. Aside from being the executive director of the Portland, Oregon-based Justice Project, Dale is also a lawyer who, for four decades, represented farmworkers. And as they nervously watch, the attorney said he does not think "we're ready and prepared."
In contrast to grain crops that depend on machinery, vegetables and fruits of America are more often than not, "picked and packed by hand," out in the open, and with workers working in long shifts. This undeniably is typically a job no one would desire in major economies. Therefore, the position is usually designated for immigrants making up about three-quarters of farmworkers in the US.
According to the Migrant Clinicians Network, there are more than 2.7 million hired farmworkers in the country which include migrant, year-round, guest-program, and seasonal workers. Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture said, while a lot of migrants have their permanent residence in the country moving from one place to another during the warmer months, others "enter through the H2A visa program."
Consequently, these people become among the most susceptible populations across the nation, subjected to dangerous work environments for small income and insufficient benefits. Not only that, but most of these people do not have access to proper health care as well, and are unable to speak English. And, without these people, many believe that it would be almost impossible to keep the country's products' aisles filled.
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