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'We're Expected To Keep Going' Florida Farm Workers Put Lives At Risk To Maintain Food Supply

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - During the coronavirus pandemic, there's no such thing as working from home for the nation's farmworkers.

While doing essential work with little or no protective gear, they're putting their lives at risk.

Getting to the fields usually starts with a bus ride, making social distancing practically impossible.

"We're expected to keep going, an essential labor? Well, we are absolutely abandoned in terms of resources to protect ourselves. There is no personal protective equipment for farmworkers, there is no hospital where we can go," said Geraldo Reyes.

Reyes works on a farm in Immokalee, the nearest hospital is about an hour away.

Reyes is with the coalition of Immokalee workers which has been distributing flyers on COVID-19 precautions in Spanish and Creole and answering questions on a radio talk show.

Some growers have set up hand-washing stations, but Reyes fears that's not enough.

"If you think about the virus, it's like wildfire, we are dry tinder in a way," he said. "If there are no workers, because we all get sick and it's impossible to sustain that work because of that, there's no food. What are people going to do without food on the tables?"

The vast majority of the nation's farmworkers lack health insurance or sick paid leave. Though it's estimated that undocumented immigrants paid 20 billion dollars in federal taxes in 2018, they aren't eligible for stimulus checks.

"Because of our needs, we have to go to work," said Gloria Carrera who recently made the tough decision leave the fields, and her income, for the health of her two children.

Carrera's situation exposes another problem. More than one family living under one roof. She said it's the only way she can afford the rent, but it increases their odds of exposure, even if she stays home.

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