COVID-19: Effort to get masks to Latino farm workers in Half Moon Bay

In the Peninsula, there is a push underway to get masks to Latino farm workers preparing the fields for planting in Half Moon Bay and Pescadero.

ALAS, a nonprofit that serves the Latino community in this coastal area, said people who work on farms, grocery stores and other businesses are often over-looked.

These workers often do not have the protective gear needed to keep them safe from COVID-19. 

At Giusti Farms in Half Moon Bay, workers are preparing the soil for crops such as brussel sprouts, artichokes and peas.

Outreach worker Joaquin Jimenez with ALAS hands out free homemade face masks made of cloth to farmworkers.

"Farm workers are the ones who put food on our tables.  We have to do like [we do for] doctors and nurses. We need farm workers," said Jimenez.

He said farmers are trying to buy face masks for their workers, but it will take weeks for a shipment.

Jimenez said the reusable masks will offer some protection.

"It's a great thing so we can protect ourselves," said Ignacio Serrano, 65, a farm worker who received a mask who spoke to KTVU through a translator.  

Jimenez said up to 15 workers can live together in close quarters inside this building.

The cloth masks are also being distributed to  house cleaners, grocery store workers and their families.

"It means a lot because during this time, we all need to be safe and having a mask is another way to protect oursevles," said Nataly Perez whose mother is a house cleaner.  

USF professor of psychology Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga is the founder of ALAS.

She said she was inspired to start a face mask project when she saw unprotected workers in her Half Moon Bay community. 

"We have to mobilize. We have to get out help. We have to get support," said Hernandez-Arriaga.

Support came from 10 women who volunteered their sewing skills. Money for materials came from donations.

So far, organizers say more than 1,000 face masks have been given away in just their first week. 

One woman said she's sewing masks  because someone told her they couldn't afford one.

"Don't worry. I make one for you. I have two hands and I have machine and I have everything. I make masks for you," said Josefina Godoy leader of ALAS face masks project.

Organizers estimate that there are five thousand Latino essential workers in Half Moon Bay and Pescadero. 

They hope to make enough face masks to meet their needs .

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