(NY POST) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed to clusters of “overwhelmingly Hispanic” day laborers and agriculture workers driving the state’s recent coronavirus spike — but farmworkers and industry associations argue that resources and testing came too late to those communities, according to new reports.
The Republican governor told reporters Tuesday that cramped living and working conditions for migrant workers and Hispanic construction workers are partly to blame, according to WFOR-TV.
“Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Tallahassee.
He pointed to cases in migrant camps, a watermelon farm and Immokalee, a major hub for tomato production, as evidence of the uptick.
But Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried argued that the majority of farmworkers left several weeks ago after harvests ended and that the real uptick is in non-agricultural areas, according to the Miami Herald.
In addition, Antonio Tovar, executive director of the Farmworker Association of Florida, said it’s not the farmworkers’ fault they are vulnerable to COVID-19.
He pointed the finger at DeSantis for ignoring pleas from a coalition of 50 groups that asked him for aid in late April.
“We sent this letter to the governor more than two months ago and now he is realizing that foreign workers are more suitable to get infected,” Tovar told the News Service of Florida on Wednesday. “That is very shameful because he was advised, he was told when we sent the letter.”
Tovar claimed the resources only came in May, after many in the southwest Florida farming community had already become ill.
“It is too little too late,” he said. “It was about two weeks ago when the department (of health) sent an email to a lot of organizations saying, ‘Hey! We received 2 million face masks. If you want we can give you face masks.’”
But DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre argued the governor long ago placed a focus on the agriculture community as a high-risk location.
“For months, Governor DeSantis has been speaking about the importance of proactively testing in areas of high risk, such as agriculture areas where migrant/farm workers tend to live and travel in confined spaces that are conducive to the spread of this disease,” she said in a Wednesday email to WFOR-TV.