Newsom: CA must protect essential workers, coronavirus disproportionately affects Latino community

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday focused on protecting essential workers such as construction laborers, food prep employees, farm workers, truck drivers and cashiers, who are being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus.

"This is where we're seeing the spread," Newsom said, "in the LatinX community. They are the bedrock and backbone of our essential workforce." 

In Marin County alone, Latinos comprise 76% of the coronavirus cases, but they comprise 16% of the population. The concentration has been seen in the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael. 

To that end, he said the state will be expanding on the Roomkey model, by providing more hotel rooms and subsidies for essential workers who feel sick, and have no place at home to isolate because of they might be living in tight quarters. He did not mention specifics, like number of rooms or cost. 

San Francisco launched a program at the end of May for such essential workers, opening up 1,000 hotel rooms for those at risk.

These rooms opened up, said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, when the city realized that they weren't being filled with first responders, as originally designed. Instead of having them sit empty, she said, the program for people at high risk was born shortly after a UCSF study pointed out that Latinos in the Mission District were disproportionately afflicted with coronavirus.

Newsom also said more needs to be done in terms of an educational awareness campaign, to reach more employers and families. 

Worker protections must be expanded to build on existing orders, he said.

Those include: Making sure those who are eligible get COVID-19 sick leave, giving workers' compensation for at-risk workers, enforcing labor laws and strengthening employer reporting of outbreaks. 

Francisco Herrera of the San Francisco Day Labor Program told KTVU this week that he knows of at least one case where an employer was refusing to pay an undocumented worker his full pay and holding the man's desperate need to work during the pandemic over his head. 

After talking with the employer and reminding him what he was doing is against the law, Herrera said that he agreed to pay the undocumented man. 

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED: The application to request HRCH hotel accommodations is now available online. 

San Francisco residents who work outside of the home can apply for themselves or a vulnerable household member for whom they want to reduce exposure to COVID-19 because the person is at least 60 years old or has a pre-existing medical condition. Questions? Email

If you're interested in hiring a worker from the San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women's Collective call 415-252-5375. More information about the programs can be found here. You can also donate to Fighting for our Workers You can also email dispatcher Louis Legowsky at the program at if you'd like to hire a worker. 

This story was reported in Oakland, Calif.