Immokalee community remains COVID-19 hot spot, concerned for another spike

Reporter: Andrea Guerrero Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

Immokalee has been a coronavirus hot spot for a few months now. There are more than 2,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 in the area, according to Florida Department of Health. And there is a worry there could be another spike.

We spoke to community members about their concerns for another uptick in COVID-19 cases in Immokalee.

Pandemic or not, migrant workers go to work in the fields of Immokalee.

Silvia Perez is a former migrant worker in Immokalee. She spoke to us in Spanish, and WINK News translated her interview to English.

“They need to work, so they can take care of their families and also provide food at a national level for this country,” said Silvia Perez, a former migrant worker.

Perez, who was a migrant worker for almost 15 years, says loading up into buses with dozens of workers heading out of to the fields is not something they can stop. She says, not only do they need to provide for their families, but also for the whole country.

And the work does not stop there.

“Our community doesn’t stay here all year around,” Perez said. “The workers travel to other states to follow the season because, you’re in our community, there’s only a little bit amount of people who stay.”

Migrant workers travel north every year for tomato season, leaving Immokalee during the summer. Even with many gone, the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to increase.

In a few weeks when many begin to return, so will the concerns of those working on the front lines.

“Another spike of people getting it and when the next influx of people coming in, that’s going to be another spike,” said Lt. Daniel Gonzalez, with Immokalee Fire Department.

“We’re waiting to see how these cases can increase or become more dangerous because the people will be arriving to our community,” Perez said.

Doctors Without Borders stepped in during the community’s time of need. Immokalee is the only place in Florida to receive this kind of assistance.

“We saw that they have a lot of vulnerabilities here, particularity being essential workers, living in project housing and group transportation and we wanted to be able to respond to that,” said Suan Doyle, with Doctors Without Borders.

Perez fears a spike and the danger it will bring to the community. Forgotten, that’s how Perez says the government has made her community feel.

Perez says the governor has made excuses by saying the field workers are simply infecting one another because of their living conditions. The former migrant worker says the community lives in poverty, and this is the only way they can afford to live.

“For the governor, it’s easy to say they’re field workers; they’re infecting each other because they all live together in their homes,” Perez said. “But the workers have a reason why they live like that. It’s because they’re poor.”

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