WASHINGTON – Nearly half of the states across the U.S. are reporting an increase in coronavirus cases, potentially due to the phased-in re-openings and the ongoing protests. California is seeing a spike as well, as cases hit the highest one-day increase last Friday.
One Coachella Valley lawmaker, Raul Ruiz, is also a physician. He said it’s especially important now to ensure communities with less accessibility get free testing. While he admits testing has ramped up in the Golden State, Ruiz said communities facing various barriers could get left behind.
Those hurdles could span anywhere from living too far from the city or not having a car or insurance, to not having English as a first language. Either way, Ruiz said he’s taking a hands-on approach to fixing the problem.
“Resource-poor farm working communities are at higher risk of transmitting the coronavirus and also dying from the coronavirus because of their poverty,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz went into the rural community this week, to help administer tests for farm workers and their families. He said many may not have the money or means to drive and get testing in the city. On top of that, he said these essential workers are working around the clock and many times aren’t able to social distance from their families, which could in turn spread the virus in the community.
“And we’re seeing that here in real-time in the eastern Coachella Valley,” Ruiz said.
But it’s not just farmworkers, Ruiz has been out several times, administering tests to other hard-to-reach areas like trailer parks and the homeless community.
He said these areas need help and commends the ongoing nationwide protests for bringing national attention to the systemic problem that communities of color are disproportionately facing.
“I’m here because I believe in the idea of going to the people, of targeting the most vulnerable and providing the resources, the education needed in order to save the lives of those who are more likely to lose their life,” Ruiz said. “And in the storm of racial systemic injustices, we’re seeing it played in communities of color in the working-class poor in difficult to reach areas who are also dying more from the pandemic than other communities.”
Ruiz partnered for the remote and targeted testing sites with the Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine. Founder, Rosa Lucas, said it’s important to get the correct information for COVID-19 testing and results for farmworkers to better combat the virus everywhere.
“Statistics for farmworkers and COVID testing were very small and not representative for the population and health in this community,” Lucas said.
She said she values the volunteers who are mostly medical workers, like Ruiz.
This event hits close to home for the Congressman, as his own parents were farmworkers.
“I feel connected in so many ways because my family worked very hard to give me this opportunity that I have now to make a difference,” Ruiz said. “And that’s why I’m here, that’s why we do what we do and in our presence, they are king and queens. In our presence, they are the most important. Whoever we serve, wherever we go, those that often get marginalized, pushed aside, discredited, or turned away, we go to them with open arms to serve and to help make their lives better.”
Ruiz’s office is working on legislation to get more money out to community health centers during the pandemic. He’s calling on the House and Senate to protect and expand funding for Community Health Centers in a letter with 40 other California members of Congress.
Democrats passed the HEROES Act three weeks ago which included local and state funding as well as more stimulus checks for the American people. The GOP party helped approve PPP loan changes with Democrats last week. This week, GOP leaders indicated they wanted to wait to pass any more COVID-related legislation until past late July.