Immokalee becomes hotspot for COVID-19

Immokalee Bulletin/Danika J. Fornear:
One of the hand-washing stations that has been placed in Immokalee, to help slow the spread of the virus.

Immokalee has continued to have a rapid increase of positive COVID-19 cases, and has become a pandemic hotspot in the U.S. The department of Health continues to urge the residents of Immokalee to get tested.

“People aren’t taking it seriously, and more and more of us are getting sick,” said one resident. “Look around us, we are the only two here wearing masks,” she said with urgency in her voice.

There were 50 new cases reported in Immokalee on Sunday, and many more are expected.

“We are not able to social distance at work,” a farmworkers said, “and the gloves and masks help, but not everyone wears them. Some of us don’t have running water in our homes, so washing hands all the time isn’t always possible.” He said there are some hand washing stations, but often they are too far for some of them to walk to, especially after spending hours in the heat harvesting from the fields.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been working to provide both community-based education and personal protective equipment to those in need around Immokalee. They also have been determined to get accessible, free COVID-19 testing- as many of the testing sites for Collier county are in Naples, far away from where this outbreak is occurring.

“The CIW has produced trilingual drawings, posters, and flyers to sound the alarm about the pandemic and to convey best practices for farmworkers and growers alike to fight the deadly virus. And every day for the past three months, farmworkers have tuned into CIW’s Radio Conciencia while cooking dinner or on their way to work, hearing from public health officials and their own peers in radio theater skits about the growing threat,” their website stated. “Early in the pandemic, the CIW partnered with FFP partner Lipman Family Farms, the Immokalee Fire Department, and the Department of Health, to ensure that crucial handwashing stations were set up around town where farmworkers boarded buses for the long ride to and from the fields. CIW Women’s Group members and other community leaders banded together to sew hundreds of reusable fabric masks, supplementing thousands of more masks donated to the CIW by allies around the country, while the CIW Education Team spread out across Immokalee to distribute masks and other dearly-needed personal protective equipment to workers.” They went on to explain, “These preventative measures have saved lives, and they are more necessary now than ever before, as Immokalee becomes an increasingly dire hotspot in Southwest Florida.”

To learn more, or to join in the effort you can visit the Coalition of Immokalee Workers online, here: https://ciw-online.org/

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