Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his recent statement blaming 'overwhelmingly Hispanic laborers and agriculture workers for the spike in coronavirus cases in Florida. So far, more than 85,000 people have tested positive for the fatal virus in Florida. Friday saw the biggest jump in positive cases with 3,822 news cases reported in a single day.
Living and Working Conditions of Hispanic Workers Blamed
Earlier this week, the Republican governor blamed the cramped living and working conditions of migrant workers and Hispanic construction workers for the rise in cases. According to WFOR-TV, DeSantis, addressing a press conference Tallahassee, said: "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."
Strengthening his claim further, the Republican governor pointed out the positive cases in migrant camps, a watermelon farm and Immokalee, a major hub for tomato production. Florida reported 8,886 new COVID-19 cases between June 4-11.
In an email sent to WFOR-TV, DeSantis' spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre claimed that the governor long ago placed the 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.
DeSantis Ignored Requests for Tests, Acted Too Late
De Santis' comments did not go down well with various industry associations and groups, who slammed the governor for his insensitive comments.
Antonio Tovar, executive director of the Farmworker Association of Florida, said it's not the farmworkers' fault that they are vulnerable to COVID-19, reported New York Post. Stating that DeSantis ignored a collective request made by 50 groups for providing aid in late April, Tovar added: "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. That is very shameful because he was advised, he was told when we sent the letter."
Revealing that it was too late by the time resources finally arrived in May, a lot of southwest Florida farming community had already become ill with the virus, Tovar said: "It is too little too late. 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.'"
The Miami Herald reported that Nikki Fried, Florida Agriculture Commissioner, also questioned DeSantis' claims by stating that a majority of farmworkers left several weeks ago after harvests ended and that the real uptick is in non-agricultural areas.