Florida Governor Ripped For Trying To Pin COVID-19 Spike On Hispanic Workers
Disgruntled health professionals and labor lawyers fired back on Friday after Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R) said "predominantly Spanish" day laborers and farm workers are a key driver of record-breaking increases in the state's COVID-19 cases.
DeSantis, one of the country's last governors to issue a nationwide home stay order and one of the first to reopen the economy, told reporters on Tuesday that the increase was mainly in nursing homes, construction workers, and other day laborers and farm workers. Last week he said that "the No. 1 outbreak we saw is in agricultural communities."
"Some of these people go to work on a school bus, and they're all just sardine wrapped and driving through Palm Beach County or some of those other places, and there's just all of those ways to get a transfer," DeSantis said Tuesday.
Check out his comments on the "mostly Hispanic" workers in the video below at 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
He was reviewed by a Florida democrat, Nikki Fried, who said the majority of farm workers left the state weeks after the harvest and cases in non-agricultural areas were on the rise, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Proponents of farm workers have contacted the governor over a racist blame strategy in a state where employers have little protection for farm workers, and Florida has made little contact with a vulnerable population with poor access to health care and hygienic living conditions.
Antonio Tovar, executive director of the Farmworker Association of Florida, criticized the comments as "shameful" and told the Florida intelligence agency that a coalition of 50 groups had already asked the governor for help to the community in April.
"From day one, we asked for help for farm workers, and none came," Lourdes Villanueva, head of the farm workers' advocacy group at the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's always about blaming the less fortunate and those who can't defend themselves."
The Florida Health Department reported 3,207 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, the largest daily increase since early March. As of Thursday, Florida has registered over 85,000 cases and at least 3,061 deaths. The recent surge raises concerns that Florida could become the new American epicenter for the virus.
The state health agency has not provided the Miami Herald with any data, zip codes, or maps to provide evidence for the governor's claim that COVID-19 is highest in Florida's agricultural communities, the Herald reported.
Franco Ripple, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, accused the governor of scapegoating farm workers with "cherry picking data". According to Herald, much of the increase in new cases since June 10 has occurred in counties where agriculture is sparse, Ripple noted. "Naming rural and agricultural communities as the main drivers of the disease is not correct," he said.
DeSantis seemed to downplay the growing number of cases in the state last week by noting that they mostly occurred in certain communities, such as farm workers - and nursing homes. He jokingly referred to Florida as "God's waiting room" in April because many of the state's older residents are particularly susceptible to the corona virus.
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