Peninsula 360 Press
Farmers are among the most essential workers in the state of California, as their tireless efforts enable residents to enjoy their daily meals, but with low wages, they may be paying with their lives, as they cannot afford to pay for Covid-19 treatments.
Due to the nature of their work, farmers, most of whom (between 60% and 80%) are undocumented, often work without any personal protective equipment, resulting in exposure to the coronavirus.
This was pointed out by David E. Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who noted that these essential workers are paid very little and rarely have health insurance.
During the videoconference "Costs for Covid-19 medical care", held by Ethnic Media Services, the professor of medicine at the same university pointed out that those who become infected with Covid-19 often have to pay the medical expenses out of their own pocket.
And, he said, if an agricultural worker is infected with Covid-19, the cost of monthly treatment with Remdesivir can reach $3,120, which is equivalent to more than two full months of income, since his average monthly salary is $1,500.
Because they rarely have health insurance to pay for this treatment, a California farmworker would have to go without food, housing and transportation for two months. Otherwise, he or she would be financially burdened by this medical debt and could leave his or her family in poverty," he said.
According to the study "Covid-19: Who Can Afford the Cost of Care," which Dr. Hayes-Bautista led, most of these people could starve to death after 40 days without food.
He added that the average monthly household income of Latinos in the U.S. is $5,441, so the out-of-pocket cost of a Remdesivir treatment would equal a little more than half (57%) of that amount.
In that regard, he noted that approximately 95% of non-Hispanic white households have health insurance that could cover most or all of the cost of treatment, as their average monthly income is $7,090, so spending on that same treatment would be less than half (44%) of their monthly income.
And if treatment for Covid-19 with Remdesivir is unaffordable for many, access to a future vaccine will be even more so, as primary distribution, he said, will prioritize citizens and people with legal immigration status.
For this reason, he said that farmworkers, "the unknown backbone of California's economy, whose efforts feed each and every one of us," need to be protected.
He also stressed that these workers need access to adequate protective equipment, testing and public health education, as well as affordable health care services, regardless of their immigration status.
Hayes-Bautista pointed out that the Latino community has the highest rates of Covid-19 infection in the country, and when they go to a medical service they arrive with severe symptoms, so their recovery requires more treatment, and therefore a greater outlay of money.
The expert explained that the treatment to which President Donald Trump had access, after testing positive for the virus and presenting strong symptoms, is beyond the reach of most people from Latino and Afro-descendant communities.
Meanwhile, the politicization of the use of masks caused many to stop using protection and there is a rebound of Covid-19 cases in many parts of the United States.
Finally, he pointed out that the holiday season is about to begin, and the Latino community tends to gather to celebrate, so he called to keep a healthy distance, use masks, maintain personal hygiene, wash hands constantly, and preferably hold their meetings in open or well ventilated places so that there can be a good air circulation.
On the other hand, during the virtual meeting, Denise Octavia Smith, executive director of the National Association of Community Health Workers, pointed out the importance of supporting this type of workers because they do great work at the local level to support, especially in marginalized communities that need access to medical services.
Nationwide, only the states of Massachusetts and California pay these community workers, most of whom are women of color from the Latino, African American, Asian Pacific Islander, and Asian Pacific Islander communities, often survivors who have experience on the front lines of the medical field.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, community health workers have worked with limited resources and even little protection, as they receive no funds to help purchase materials.