Merced County program provides hotel rooms for ag workers exposed to COVID-19

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MERCED, Calif. (KSEE) — Merced County’s Healthy Harvest Home program provides temporary housing for agriculture workers who’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

“Throughout California and in Merced County, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in COVID positive numbers within the agricultural community,” said Deputy County Executive Officer Alexandra Pierce.

Merced County Health Officer Dr. Salvador Sandoval said agriculture workers make up a population that’s been disproportionately affected by the virus.

“About 70% of the cases are among Latinos, and a high proportion of them work in agriculture, could be food processing or out in the fields also,” said Sandoval.

The Healthy Harvest Home program provides hotel rooms for farm workers and food processing employees who have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19 and can’t properly isolate at home.

“They may be living with a loved one who may be more susceptible, they may have multi generations within their home,” said Pierce.

“When you have a large number of people in the same household, it’s very difficult to isolate,” said Sandoval. “Some people can do it if they’re a few people in a large home, they can have separate bathrooms or cooking utensils, but when you have 15 people in one house, it’s very difficult.”

There are currently about 10 hotel rooms in Merced County reserved for the Healthy Harvest Home program, but no one has taken advantage of the service so far.

County officials said they know the need is there, so now they’re just trying to spread the word.

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