Many CA farmworkers face coronavirus risk with few protections, no safety net

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Before heading out with his crew of farmworkers, field lead Carlos Garcia donned a blue button-up shirt, a jacket, jeans and work boots. He washed his hands before slipping gloves over them.

He washed his hands when he got to the orange grove near Visalia in the San Joaquin Valley, where pickers filled nearly 100 bins with Cara Cara oranges on a recent sunny morning. He washed his hands before and after using the restroom. He washed his hands before he left the ranch.

When he got home, he walked in through the garage, stripped off his clothes and threw them into the wash before hopping in the shower. It was Garcia’s new regimen as he and thousands of other California farm laborers, many of them immigrants, adjust to the age of coronavirus.

Despite being 73 with diabetes, Garcia couldn’t afford to stop working. His employer hadn’t said anything about the virus to workers, provided them with extra protective gear or supplied extra hand-washing stations, he said.

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