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Hendry County seeing a rise in COVID-19 driven by farm workers

DOH says 100 cases came from one farm
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Hendry County seeing a rise in COVID-19 driven by farm workers
Posted at 8:25 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 20:25:38-04

HENDRY COUNTY — COVID-19 cases are growing the fastest right now in farming communities in Southwest Florida.

But some of the counties don’t have a lot of resources to fight the spread, so the Florida Health Department is stepping in.

There are now more than 670 positive cases here in Hendry County. Most of those were just recorded within the last month. Joseph Pepe with the Health Department said the issue has been that farm workers have almost no way of social distancing at work or at home.

“We had one facility that had over 100 cases," said Pepe.

When an outbreak like that happens in a rural county, the Health Department has to step in.

“We’re doing our best. It’s extremely difficult as you can imagine to have a rapidly growing amount of cases like that to get your arms around it," said Pepe.

But less than an hours drive away in Lee County, it’s a different story. They got $135 million from the Federal Government through the CARES Act, which helped them purchase personal protective equipment for their staff, and to give away to businesses.

In Hendry, the funding hasn’t come yet, so it’s up to the DOH.

“We’ve been pushing out masks to help reduce the viral presence in the community. I think we’re up over 30 thousand masks we’ve pushed out already," said Pepe.

Pepe said all of these measures are especially important in Hendry, because the harvest season is over, and farm workers are moving north.

“We’ve been testing to make sure that we’re not exporting COVID to other states," said Pepe.

Pepe also said his biggest concern is when all those farm workers come back for the harvest season in the fall. He said the Health Department is working to make sure they have a screening process in place by that time to make sure people coming back into the county aren’t sick.