Essential agricultural workers in California — the vast majority of them Latinx and low-income individuals — are exposed to risk of COVID-19 infection at far higher rates than the rest of the population, a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley finds. The report, Prevalence and predictors of SARS-CoV-2 infection among farmworkers in Monterey County, CA (summary report, 25 pages, PDF), found that between mid-July and November, 13 percent of the nearly eleven hundred Salinas Valley farmworkers enrolled in the study tested positive for the virus, while antibody prevalence indicating prior infection increased from 9.1 percent in July, to 12.5 percent in August, to 20.2 percent in September and 19.4 percent in October. The workers in the study lived in households averaging 5.5 people, with 37 percent living in overcrowded households (more than two people per bedroom), 5 percent living with someone who had COVID, 37 percent lacking access to a washing machine, and 43 percent not having a place where they could self-quarantine if they became infected. While most farmworkers said their employers provided handwashing stations (99 percent), liquid soap and paper towels (99 percent), hand sanitizer (91 percent), gloves (85 percent), and face coverings (85 percent), 5 percent said they worked with someone who had COVID, 7 percent worked with someone who had symptoms, and 53 percent said they could not safely socially distance while they were working. In addition, 57 percent of the farmworkers who experienced symptoms and 58 percent of those who had symptoms and were later diagnosed with COVID-19 worked through their symptoms, for reasons ranging from feeling well enough to work (78 percent), to being concerned about losing pay (25 percent), losing their job (13 percent), and being told to go to work by their employer (4 percent).
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