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Ventura County sees increase in number of positive coronavirus cases among farmworkers

Workers pick strawberries in a Ventura field.
Ventura farmworkers make up 7% of people infected with the coronavirus in the county, according to officials.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Farmworkers account for 7% of the nearly 5,000 positive coronavirus cases in Ventura County after an outbreak at a farmworkers housing complex, officials said Wednesday.

Before an outbreak at the Villa Las Brisas, a housing complex that provides agricultural employers with temporary housing for their workers, these essential workers made up 2% of the county’s overall case count, according to Rigo Vargas, county director of public health, during a media briefing at the agricultural Limoneira Co. in Santa Paula.

Since then, 204 agricultural workers have tested positive. Seven of those 204 are housed in a hotel under care with mild symptoms and are expected to be released tomorrow, Vargas said. Only one person will remain under care because of their ongoing symptoms. That person will remain under care until they are symptom-free for three consecutive days, he said.

“COVID is rampant in Ventura County as in many other counties and in our nation,” Vargas said.

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County Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams said his team has collaborated with other departments and organizations, such as the farmworker resource program and Logrando Bienestar, to help keep their 43,000 farmworkers informed.

Williams’ office has issued 1 million masks to farming sites; county officials have sent flyers describing COVID-19 symptoms in Spanish and English; and the farmers resource program partnered with Radio Indígena 94.1 FM to reach indigenous people who speak Mixteco.

The county has a total of 4,787 confirmed cases with 56 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Los Angeles Times tracker. Ventura County, which recently announced intensive care units and emergency rooms were at full capacity, is listed on the governor’s watchlist.

Vargas, whose father used to pick oranges, avocados and lemons at Limoneira, said the county’s numbers were sobering.


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