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Collier County Will Not Participate in FL Ag Dept's COVID-19 Test Efforts for Farm Workers

Lisette Morales

Collier County will not be participating in the latest effort by the Florida Department of Agriculture to expand COVID-19 testing for farm workers.

Thousands of migratory agricultural workers come to Florida each year for a harvest season that runs roughly October through May.

Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said her office has been working with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, farm workers unions, and agricultural producers throughout the state to find ways to keep laborers safe during the peak growing season amid the pandemic.

“We were starting to see some outbreaks in some of the [farm worker] communities as they were starting to leave the state and so as a lot of our guest workers are coming back, we wanted to take as many precautions as possible to protect them,” Fried said.

To try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among the essential farm labor workforce, the Department of Agriculture partnered with the Department of Emergency Management to expand testing in agriculture hubs throughout the state.

On Oct. 1, the agriculture department announced St. Lucie, Hendry, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties will be participating in the expanded testing effort.

Collier County, home of the agriculture community of Immokalee, will not be participating at this time.

“We are going to continue to have conversations with the [Collier] county commissioners which we’ve been doing these last few weeks, to really work through that if in fact they change their minds and would like us to bring in additional resources, of course we will be there if needed and called upon,” Fried said.

A representative for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County said via email that the state agriculture department did not offer additional resources to supplement the county’s current COVID-19 response efforts.

DOH-Collier currently offers walk-up COVID testing three days a week in Immokalee and representatives have said the department can offer additional testing if needed.

Copyright 2020 WGCU

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.