Rep. TJ Cox Cox Leads Letter to Prioritize COVID-19 Testing for Farmworkers

May 5, 2020
Press Release

Today, Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) joined by Representatives Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) and Jim Costa (CA-16), sent joint letters to National Institute of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and California Governor Gavin Newsom, requesting that funding prioritization be given to research on how COVID-19 has affected essential workers in the food industry, especially farmworkers, farmers, and employees of food processing plants. 

"Testing is one of the most important tools we have to combat this pandemic. Farmers, farmworkers, and employees of food processing plants in the Central Valley are on the frontlines everyday risking their health to ensure that we all have access to food, yet they don’t have access to the testing they need,” said Congressman Cox. “We must act quickly before the virus devastates our rural health system and keeping these essential workers safe and healthy during this crisis.”   

"This pandemic is exposing what we on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley have long known about how farmers and farmworkers are not just valuable to our food security, but also very vulnerable to this type of virus. The highly communicable nature of COVID-19 and the close working conditions of people who work in agriculture mandate that certain safeguards are put in place," said Congressman Panetta. "In order to determine those protections, we ask that our state and federal governments invest in critical research through widespread testing for this disease in our agricultural communities. The results would help ensure the safety of our farmers and farmworkers and provide for an enduring food supply for our nation." 

"Our national security depends on front-line workers, uncluding farmworkers, who keep our stores stocked and food on our table. We have deemed them essential, so we must provide the the protections they need to safely do their jobs and robust testing to keep this virus from devastating the workforce in our fields and our processing facilities," said Congressman Costa.

Essential farmworkers are on the front lines every day, ensuring that grocery store shelves remain stocked during this crisis. Farmworkers constitute an essential workforce. Yet, the nature of this work makes it very difficult to execute social distancing at work, while commuting, and in housing. Many of these workers already suffer from existing health disparities and lack of access to care. In addition, continuing to work during this pandemic means workers exposed to COVID-19 risk spreading the virus to family, especially those who are older or immunocompromised.
Read the full letter to the NIH director here
Read the full letter to Governor Gavin Newsom here