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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

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

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