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Farmworkers Are Dying, COVID-19 Cases Are Spiking, and the Food System Is in Peril

Agricultural workers in one Florida town have what may be one of the highest coronavirus infection rates

Last week, an Intensive Care doctor in a central Florida hospital placed a call to Mexico to the parents of Juan Santiago (pseudonym) to inform them that their son was not expected to survive the next twenty-four hours. The next day, Juan, a farmworker from Immokalee, Florida, died from complications of the novel coronavirus.  Sadly, his last days were spent without family in a city he had never even visited before he was intubated.  "It's so tragic", said the ICU doctor, "and he was so young."  

Like many other essential workers infected who couldn't shelter at home during the pandemic, Juan was healthy before being exposed to the virus.  When he became ill with a cough and fever in April, he'd been working at Oakes Farm, based in Naples, Florida.  Alfie Oakes, the founder and CEO of Oakes Farm, claimed in March that COVID-19 was "the largest government and media hoax in history" and posted on Facebook that "the people that have propagated this hoax should get the death penalty for their reckless behavior."  In April, Oakes Farm Vice President Steve Veneziano called COVID-19 "absolutely nothing" and said coverage of the pandemic by the media was "an attack on this country."  

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