Open Letter: Yolo County COVID-19 Emergency Response in Latinx Community

Dear Yolo County Leaders and Officials,

We are concerned about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Yolo County among Latinx community members. We are requesting immediate, targeted, and culturally appropriate non-policing measures to be taken to protect the public health and address the racial health disparities among Latinas/os/xs.

The recent outbreak increased with the rush in reopening public spaces, some family gatherings, and what seems like the reluctance of the Farm Bureau to provide protection to farm workers in a timely manner. We know that the City of Woodland has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 outbreak in Yolo County.  Latinxs (of Mexican background) are the majority in Woodland (48.6%)  and in Winters (48%)  and may be a majority in the cases.  The spread of COVID-19 in this large demographic follows socio-economic disparities.  Many Latinx workers have been essential, frontline workers throughout the pandemic, putting themselves and their families at risk with little resource for protection.

We fully understand the serious need to address the pandemic in Yolo County with strategies targeting the Latinx community. Given the lack of trust, racial injustice, and a track record of abuse of power by law enforcement in communities of color , we request that any COVID-19 response strategies be directed through public health channels rather than the police or sheriff departments as stated on July 7, 2020 .

We recommend the following actions be taken by the County:

  • Establish an ongoing Latinx Advisory Committee to Yolo County Supervisors composed of community members actively working on the ground to solve everyday issues –not just elected Latinx officials focused on policy. Last minute meetings with ad hoc groups to review and finalize outreach efforts is not enough. Discussing and making culturally competent materials to distribute to Latinxs on an on-going basis and strategic planning is necessary for a successful connection to the Latinx community.
  • Yolo County, Agricultural Commissioner, and CalOSHA enforce the health and safety of farmworkers and provide guidance to growers and farm labor contractors to maintain farmworkers safe during this pandemic .  However, the enforcement must be supported by the empowering and expansion of the Yolo County Farm Workforce Coordinator’s Office with more full-time bilingual Latinx staff with cultural competency to effectively respond to the needs of the Yolo Farmworker community during and beyond this pandemic. This includes empowering the Farm Workforce Coordinator to 1) receive complaints from workers regarding unsafe working conditions, wage theft, or other issues, and not disclosing the worker’s identifies to the employer or other nongovernmental third-parties; 2) to investigate such complaints; 3) to monitor noncompliant employers; 4) to educate farmworkers on all the rights, benefits, and means of recourse available to them; and 5) if necessary to take any appropriate enforcement action, including notifying the appropriate government agency, such as CalOSHA, and cooperating that the appropriate agency. The Coordinator may disclose the worker’s identity to third party farmworker advocates only with the consent of the worker. The current well-intentioned staff do not have the adequate enforcement or leadership decision making power for providing the best consultation and recommendations.
  • Given the limited social distancing during tomato harvest and cannery work, we are very concerned that growers and farm labor contractors ignored the County recommendations (see letter County Ag commissioner sent out to Ag Owners with recommendations) . We ask that the County help test farm workers and ensure that when there is a workplace infection, agricultural employers take corrective actions. For example, recent reports about the Mariani Nut Company show that the facility was closed for an extended period of time to do a deep-cleaning and workers were required to take time off without pay, use their sick leave, or their vacation leave. This was punitive and unacceptable.
  • Improve communication by creating and distributing educational materials aimed at different literacy levels and in diverse languages (i.e., Spanish, Indigenous Languages, other). For example, in Yolo County, there are farmworkers whose first language is Mixteco Bajo, Mixteco Alto, or Triqui, among other indigenous languages. Use billboard signs and systematic text messaging to communicate during the pandemic throughout the County. Expand the use of public art and culturally relevant messaging to implement effective public health education campaigns. Enlist community health “promotores” in this educational effort that can also address the need for mental health and wellbeing support for families.
  • Establish and fund an effective Community Contact Tracing program that takes into account the diverse communities and languages spoken in the county.
  • Require all businesses to notify the County Health Department whenever an employee tests positive for COVID 19 within 1 business day of learning about the positive test. In addition, publish on its website the number of employees infected in the county separated by industry.
  • If any county official or task force member overseeing the county’s COVID19 response, including the Farm Workforce Coordinator and the “health promotoras”, learn about employees’ unsafe working conditions, especially about employers not following COVID19 guidance, they should notify CalOSHA.
  • Yolo County must provide adequate funding and enforcement powers to the strike team to allow for the temporary shutdown or repeal of the license of any egregious violators of the guidance issued by CalOSHA and the California Ag Commissioner to protect the health and safety of the community.  We applaud the increased enforcement measures taken to prevent COVID-19 , however, we stress that in any action the County takes, that the employees’ identities must remain confidential and only shared with other government agencies to protect them from retaliation.
  • Extend the State, County and CDC recommendation that “only ten or less gather outside” to apply to the inside of all public institutions in Yolo County.
  • Provide free masks and gloves to use and to replace when needed.
  • We advise that any enforcement actions on masks not lead to any unfair enforcement or discriminatory practices toward the Latinx community. This is a concern especially given that law enforcement and the District Attorney have treated the Latino community discriminatorily, including engaging in criminal behavior, which ultimately affects the trust and relationship the Latino community has with law enforcement.

In the spirit of racial justice please consider promptly and effectively implementing these strategies, practices and procedures. Thank you for your service to Yolo County during this time. Please respond in writing and within a week to our concerns and requests.

Signed,

CRLA Foundation
Davis Phoenix Coalition
Rev. Pamela Dolan, Episcopal Church of St. Martin
Hispanic Advisory Committee
Mothers Out Front
RISE
Yolo Climate Emergency Coalition
Yolo Interfaith and Immigration Network
Yolo People Power

 


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14 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    My friend, a UCD grad and professor at another university, wrote a book and at the last minute the publisher demanded she change all the Latinos and Latinas to Latinx. She wasn’t happy but complied and told me she could live with it as long as people didn’t demand that she could no longer self identify as Latina.

    1. Alan Miller

      If the ‘x’ version dies out due to only temporary woke acceptability, that book is going to be difficult to interpret after a few years.

  2. Ron Glick

    The County is behind the curve. Of course as Fauci said no matter where you think you are you are always behind. The County needs to step up its game big time.

    1. Alan Miller

      The County is behind the curve.

      The Country is way behind the curve.  The County is way ahead of most CA counties.  Being the first small county to require mandatory masks is no small matter.  The whole d@mn state ‘opened’ too early.  And can we please stop using that stupid term ‘opened’, it makes it sound like the issue is concluded and the virus is defeated.  The term should be “Heavy Caution Mode” – when everything opens up is when we have to be the MOST careful.  But everyone took ‘open’ as ‘all clear’.  Words matter.

      1. Bill Marshall

         

        Agree in the main, but “defeating” is also a word that matters… defeating is generally a term for used where there are two antagonists, both capable of mounting an attack… Covid does not ‘attack’… it has no consciousness… no more than pollen, poisonous plants, bacteria…

        Avoiding, vaccines, treatments/support, common sense (hygiene, etc.) made smallpox pretty much disappear… same with polio… they were not ‘defeated’ in the common use of the word… bubonic and pneumonic plague have not been ‘defeated’… still somewhat endemic (rodents and their fleas in the Tahoe region, for example)… yet, how many have morbidity/mortality from those?  De minimus… unless of course, it happens to you or one of yours…

        From the theme song from the old TV show, “Monk” (Randy Newman music and lyrics)… “It’s a jungle out there”…

        verse:  You better pay attention… Or this world we love so much might just kill you… I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so…

  3. Alan Miller

    This is a concern especially given that law enforcement and the District Attorney have treated the Latino community discriminatorily,

    If you take the above as a given, which I am not disputing, this is a very serious issue that needs separate consideration beyond mention in a public health letter, and makes the below,

    We advise that any enforcement actions on masks not lead to any unfair enforcement or discriminatory practices toward the Latinx community.

    . . . a total conundrum.  Does that mean ‘don’t enforce mask laws’ on this community, since the enforcement agency may do so discriminatorily ?  Or literally, enforce without regard to race? . . . how can one tell if it is being done ‘fairly’ or not?  Indeed a conundrum.

  4. Ron Glick

    “The County is way ahead of most CA counties.  Being the first small county to require mandatory masks is no small matter.  The whole d@mn state ‘opened’ too early. ”

    Good on masks but behind on translating documents so the Spanish speaking community can have up to date information.

    Remember the virus doesn’t discriminate on ethnicity or language. Its an equal opportunity pandemic.

    1. Alan Miller

      Good on masks but behind on translating documents so the Spanish speaking community can have up to date information.

      Ahhh . . . didn’t know that’s what you were referring to.

      Remember the virus doesn’t discriminate on ethnicity or language. Its an equal opportunity pandemic.

      If the virus were a person it sure would be called out in Yolo County for being discriminatory.

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