SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California Governor Gavin Newsom announced new efforts Friday to protect essential workers, especially Latino workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Newsom noted that most of the essential workers in different economic sectors, especially in agriculture and construction, are Latino who the state Department of Public Health says make up 55 percent of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases despite being just 39 percent of the population.READ MORE: COVID: Santa Clara County Begins Offering Booster Shots For All 3 Vaccines
The additional worker safeguards involve preventative measures for essential workers, new employer education resources and measures to ensure long-lasting protections for workers who are sick or have been exposed. Some of Newsom’s proposals will require lawmakers to pass legislation to expand on current measures already in place.
The governor said he wants to build on executive orders and the CARES Act from the federal government, such as extending the support being offered to workers by unemployment insurance past current expiration dates.
“This essential workforce remains the bedrock — the backbone — of those that are providing foundational, fundamental services in the state of California,” Newsom explained. “We want to continue to work in the spirit of collaboration and partnership with our employer community, to educate not only employers large and small, but to help them educate employees as well. And we want to extend some longer-lasting worker protections.”
The preventative measures are being especially targeted to the state’s 626,000 agricultural and farmworkers, and include providing funds and temporary housing for workers to isolate and quarantine when they are sick or exposed. The measures also include an enhancement of the state’s current public awareness campaign on COVID-19 prevention.
“People that are feeling sick, we don’t want them going to work and infecting other people, having a big outbreak where now a factory or a meat processing plant has to shut down,” said Newsom. “We need to give them the protection so that you can be protected and customers can be protected.”READ MORE: Climate Change Disrupting Natural Cycles at Drier Lake Tahoe
The state plans to allocate existing federal funds to local public health departments and community organizations to assist with supportive services for isolation and quarantine. A new program called Housing for the Harvest will provide places for agricultural and farmworkers who test positive or were exposed to the virus to quarantine and will operate in partnership with counties and local partners in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Imperial Valley – regions with the highest number of agricultural workers.
These efforts will build on the state’s already-established programs, including Hotels for Health Care Workers serving COVID-19 positive patients and Project Roomkey, the shelter program for COVID-19 positive, exposed or vulnerable homeless Californians.
Employers will be enjoined to get on board with protecting their essential workers with a new safety handbook that simplifies guidance across various business sectors. The handbook will distill the various health orders and amendments, offer best practices and provide information on compliance and testing for employees.
To ensure long-lasting protection for essential workers, Newsom said he plans to work with the state legislature and Congress to expand worker protections, including building on executive orders to cover gaps in paid COVID-19 sick leave and workers compensation. The state also plans to strategically enforce labor laws and strengthen employer reporting of outbreaks to move more quickly to isolate those affected and contact trace, Newsom said.
Newsom announced the worker protection efforts as the state’s coronavirus cases and deaths continued to surge. The state reported 159 more deaths over the previous 24 hours, a new record just one after the previous record of 157 deaths.
There were 9,718 new cases reported, with a seven-day positivity rate of 7.5 percent compared to 7.4 percent on Monday. As of Friday afternoon, California has reported 435,334 total COVID-19 cases, the most in the U.S., and 8,186 deaths.MORE NEWS: Campbell Students Stage Walkout in Support of Teachers' Salary Dispute