Farmworkers petition governor for field hospital, protective gear

The Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Ron Desantis, asking for protections for workers who are considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CIW said Immokalee is especially vulnerable due to the conditions in which workers are transported by bus to fields and the crowded conditions in which they live.

“While grower-provided housing is generally compliant with the legally mandate 50-square-foot per worker, that too is totally inadequate to meet the demands for social separation and quarantine,” stated the letter, which the CIW said it sent to the governor on April 3.

It also launched an online petition.

Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a farmworker leader with the coalition, said that he fears Immokalee could become an epicenter for the virus. So far there are only four reported cases in the community, but since there is no hospital and a lack of adequate medical care, there are many workers without the ability to be tested when they become ill.

The CIW is asking for a field hospital to be set up in Immokalee to conduct aggressive testing and wants the state government to distribute personal protective equipment including hand sanitizer.

Reyes Chavez said that in his opinion, the farming companies were doing a lot more to step up to protect workers than the state and local government.

He said that Lipman Family Farms has provided handwashing stations for workers.

“That’s not going to save our community. What we need is to have real infrastructure and real resources provided by the local government or the state government or both,” said Reyes Chavez.

The Coalition said as of publication, no one from the governor’s office or Collier County government has communicated plans with them to keep farmworkers safe. He warned that if farmworkers get sick, it could have widespread impact on the nation’s food supply.

“If people want to ignore the fact that it is thanks to us that food is possible for people to shelter in place in the first place, if people are not going to care about our humanity, if it’s for self-preservation – I don’t care, but people need to do something, ” he said.

At time of publication, no one from Lipman Family Farms, the governor’s office, or Collier County government returned WINK News requests for comment.

Read the CIW Letter to Gov. DeSantis

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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