Gov. Newsom visits mobile farmworker vaccination clinic in Coachella Valley

Gov. Gavin Newsom toured a packinghouse-turned-vaccination clinic for farmworkers in eastern Riverside County on Wednesday.

While in town he announced $24 million in additional funding for a state program that provides temporary hotel housing to agricultural workers who must isolate due to COVID-19.

The governor toured Sea View Packing in Coachella, where Medjool dates and other fruits are packed. Riverside County on Tuesday set up a three-day mobile vaccination clinic at the site.

"Thank you to the farmworkers,'' Newsom said during a news briefing, with an orange in his hand. "These things don't just magically appear in the grocery store. There are folks out there every single day in 120-degree heat that make sure these arrive in your grocery store.''

The Sea View Packing location will inoculate between 300 and 350 people a day, according to county spokeswoman Brooke Federico. She said the site, set to operate through Thursday, is part of a broader county effort that has been targeting different packinghouses, ranches and farms, which have combined to inoculate about 2,300 agricultural workers.

Newsom spoke after several local leaders highlighted coronavirus-related inequities exhibited in the predominately Latino population of local agricultural workers.

Studies have found that agricultural workers have contracted COVID-19 at disproportional rates compared to other residents in the state. One study from UC Berkeley published in December found agricultural workers were three times more likely to be sickened with the disease caused by the coronavirus than other residents.

Newsom admitted the state should "do more and do better'' to help these workers.

"Frankly, we haven't done enough. We have to own that. We have to recognize we haven't delivered on equity as we should,'' he said. During his visit, the governor also announced additional funding for the state's Housing for the Harvest program, which operates in about 15 counties in California, including Riverside County.

The program "helps positive or exposed workers protect their loved ones and co-workers by giving them a space to self-isolate,'' according to the state's website. Participants receive a free hotel room for up to two weeks to self-isolate.

Earlier in the day, Newsom toured the facility and spoke to farmworkers who had been vaccinated or were planning on getting vaccinated. Some spoke about their fears of getting inoculated due to widespread negative rumors associated with the vaccine, the governor said.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, applauded the governor's efforts in combating the pandemic, claiming Newsom "saved millions of lives with his early decisive decisions.''

The congressman, who represents much of Riverside County, also lauded the governor for visiting the eastern Coachella Valley instead of more affluent outposts often frequented by government officials in the region.

Ruiz said Newsom may be the first California governor to have ever visited the city of Coachella.

"We have had other elected local representatives who have never stepped foot here in Coachella with farmworkers,'' Ruiz said. "Most national or state individuals go to Indian Wells and to fancy country clubs with very rich and powerful people.''

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