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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Agricultural workers have become essential workers in the race to maintain Americas food supply while simultaneously staying healthy. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

The U.S. food system depends on up to 2.7 million farmworkers, most of whom are undocumented, to pick fresh fruits and vegetables, Michael Haedicke, an agricultural sociologist at Drake University, writes.

Driving the news: Their living and working conditions do not lend themselves to social distancing.

  • Up to 10 people may live in dormitory-like bunkhouses with shared bathrooms.
  • They travel from site to site in shared cars and trucks.
  • They’re exposed to dangerous pesticides and lung irritants, such as pollen and crop dust, that contribute to coronavirus complications and worsen infections.

Access to medical care is limited:

  • Not many clinics or hospitals are available in rural areas.
  • Undocumented farmworkers are not covered by the Affordable Care Act.
  • They have no sick leave.

The pandemic is making a farmworker labor shortage worse:

  • U.S. embassies are operating on reduced staff and services, which means longer wait times for the H-2A worker visas.
  • International travel restrictions resulted in a two-week delay in the arrival of farmworkers to Vermont from Jamaica. The state’s Agency for Agriculture had to charter a plane to bring workers into the state, Alyson Eastman, the agency’s deputy secretary, told lawmakers last week.
  • Canada, which also relies on some 60,000 seasonal farmworkers to pick fruit and vegetables, has a 14-day quarantine period before farmworkers who enter the country can start working, per Reuters.
  • One Ontario farmer, Mike Chromczak, told Reuters his farm stands to lose more than half its revenue if the labor from Jamaica doesn't arrive within the next two weeks to pick asparagus.
  • Pruning work, which affects fruit yields, on another Ontario farm is past due because the farmworkers are in quarantine.

The bottom line: “If the farm doesn’t produce, the city doesn’t eat,” Abad Hernandez Cruz told Reuters as he harvested onions in Georgia.

Go deeper

CDC: Half of US adults have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half of US adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about a third are fully vaccinated, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still on the rise, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during Friday's White House COVID-19 briefing. With cases in many states being driven by variants, public health officials have emphasized the need to ramp up vaccinations.

2 hours ago - World

Israeli intel agencies believe Vienna talks will lead to U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal

Photo: DEBBIE HILL/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli military intelligence and senior officials in the Mossad briefed a meeting of the nation's security cabinet that talks in Vienna between Iran and other world powers will lead to the U.S. returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, two officials who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is very concerned about a U.S. return to the nuclear deal and is trying to convince the Biden administration not to take the pressure off the Iranian regime.

Latino community of 13-year-old killed by police in Chicago reels after shooting

A small memorial of flowers and candles to Adam Toledo in Chicago. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Residents of Little Village, a well-known and predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, are grieving the death of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Mexican American boy from the neighborhood who was shot and killed by a police officer on March 29, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: Adam Toledo's killing shines a spotlight on police shootings of Latinos, who are killed by law enforcement at the second-highest rate after Black Americans, according to data from the Washington Post.

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