With an ongoing pandemic and surge in COVID-19 cases, California is doubling down on safeguards to protect essential workers, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
“We demanded even with our stay-at-home order certain sectors of our economy remain open,” he said during a live broadcast, referring to the essential workforce consisting of grocery workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, and those in the health care, food and shelter industries.
The governor highlighted that most essential workers in California are Latino, a community that is more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than others.
“When people ask, as they often do, where are we seeing the spread, this is where we’re seeing the spread: the essential workforce, disproportionately represented by the Latinx community,” he said.
In Los Angeles County, for example, the Latino community is more than twice as likely as white people to become infected with COVID-19 and twice as likely to die when compared to white people, according to county Health Officer Muntu Davis. Out of 3,976 deaths related to the virus, 47% occurred among Latino residents countywide, county Public Health data released Thursday showed.
“Oftentimes, people who are low income cannot stay home to work and, early in the pandemic, there were few protections offered at any worksites,” Davis said during a previous county briefing. “There were no requirements for masking or physical distance and, in many places, infection control was not the focus.”
For Newhall resident and grocery worker Rafael Bahena, additional protections and education for both employees and customers are of utmost importance in protecting everyone’s health, as he’s noticed not everyone practices physical distancing or wears face masks.
“There’s a lot more people (at the grocery store), and you just don’t know who’s infected,” he said. “We can’t work from home because we still have to go out there. We’re essential workers, we’re pretty much in the front lines, too.”
In an effort to help prevent further spread of the virus and protect workers, the state is extending these safeguards:
Isolation and quarantine
- Provide workers with “safe” and “suitable” places to isolate and quarantine if they become sick or exposed, especially for individuals who live in multigenerational households.
- Roll out Housing for Harvest, which provides temporary isolation spaces for agricultural and farm workers who are diagnosed or exposed.
Education and resources
- Build on the state’s awareness campaigns to reach additional employers, workers and their families on how to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, home and their communities.
- Release an employer safety handbook that guides businesses on how to provide a clean environment for both workers and customers as they reopen.
Legislation for employees
- Work with the state Legislature on expanding paid sick leave, workers’ compensation access and improving reporting outbreaks in the workplace.
Protection efforts also come after L.A. County Public Health officials reported Thursday their own steps to help move employers and employees into compliance, which include educating businesses on what is required, as well as citations and potential closures if they fail to comply.
L.A. County Public Health received 238 complaints for businesses in the SCV between June and July and more than 17,800 countywide since March.