Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that "overwhelmingly Hispanic" farmworkers and day laborers were the main sources of new coronavirus infections in his state, and now Latino leaders are calling for him to apologize. "It's absolutely embarrassing, appalling," state Rep. Javier Fernández said Monday, per NBC News. "We're living in very dark and sad times" when the governor, a Republican and ally of President Trump, blames not "his failed leadership" but instead "some of the most vulnerable members of our community here in Florida." Adds Oscar Londoño, executive director of We Count!, "His messaging continues to try to stoke nativism, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment across the state of Florida." Farmworker organizations say they asked for increased testing in rural areas, more personal protective equipment for farmworkers, and other help in April, and those pleas were ignored.
"Months ago, actions should have been taken to prevent this," Londoño said, noting that agricultural workers have been classified as essential. "The recent attempts to scapegoat workers who have been sustaining our entire food chain during the pandemic is shameful." Natascha Otero-Santiago, vice president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida, called on DeSantis to put out "an announcement or a statement saying where he has gotten this information that Latinos are the ones spreading and are the cause of the exponential growth of COVID-19." DeSantis had previously said agricultural communities were the source of the state's biggest recent outbreak. But it's lately become clear cases are spiking in other areas as well. "Farmworker communities only represent 9% of the total increase. His accusations are not accurate," said Cramer Verde, Florida director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Florida on Saturday saw its highest number of new cases in a single day, NPR reports, at 4,049. (Read more Florida stories.)