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COVID vaccines and testing readied for arrival of farm workers to South Carolina

April to September is peak season for migrant and seasonal farm workers, the majority of whom travel to South Carolina from Mexico.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia, SC (WTLX) -- April to September is peak season for migrant and seasonal farm workers, the majority of whom travel to South Carolina from Mexico.

Before they arrive, an outreach effort is underway to make sure COVID-19 materials, testing and vaccines are ready for this hard-to-reach population.

"Our goal is to make sure they are getting the information that they need, that we also hear from them what their community, these migrant seasonal farm workers, what they need and how we work together," said Ivan Segura, Program Manager for the Hispanic and Latino Affairs Division of the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs.

In a team effort between the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs (SCCMA), state agencies, community leaders and organizations, a COVID-19 Action Plan is in effect aimed at seasonal farm workers and Latinos in rural areas of the state.

RELATED: Plan de acción COVID-19 para los trabajadores agrícolas, latinos que viven en zonas rurales

"These Latinos need an extra step for us to give them the information," explained Segura. "That's the step we're trying to make."

While outreach to the Latino population isn't new, this collaboration is a bigger push to ensure the proper COVID-19 resources reach the hands of these Latinos ahead of peak agriculture season.

Segura says while translating material is helpful, more work is required to get this life-saving information into the hands of those who need it.

RELATED: Outreach underway to prepare Hispanic community for COVID vaccine

"We need to understand in this community, we need more printed materials," said Segura. "We need more communication with our community leaders. We need more communication with the crew leaders. We need more communication with the employers. We need to figure out how to get the information to them."

RELATED: SC Hispanic community concerned about COVID-19 vaccine access

In April, 12,000 farmworkers will make their way to South Carolina.

About half will come from other states, and the other half will arrive from other countries. For the H-2A visa holders, SCCMA is working with employers to make sure workers get vaccinated when they're here.

U.S. Census data shows 23,395 Latinos live in rural areas of South Carolina and represent the fastest growing segment of many of these communities.

According to the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, there are 16 SC Counties that meet the three definitions used by the federal government to be defined as rural: Hampton, Colleton, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Williamsburg, Marion, Dillon, Marlboro, Chesterfield, Lee, McCormick, Abbeville, Newberry, Cherokee, and Oconee.

Latino Communications is one organization helping with outreach.

"We're trying to cut down the barrier with the language, so we try to offer our services to those in need throughout the pandemic," said Zimri Bertotty of Latino Communications. "Whether it being just financially or just passing them along information about COVID19, giving them PPE kits with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer."

The non-profit is helping correct any misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine. They also help more members of the Hispanic community make informed decisions about getting their shot.

"What we're trying to also do is have proof for them. A lot of times, Latinos don't really want to do something unless they see proof," said Bertotty. "Being that guide throughout the community so they can see it's really not bad and it's for their health so they can continue to stay safe as well as their family members."

SCCMA's COVID-19 Action Plan has five points of action:

  1. Work with state agencies to help them understand the specific characteristics of the Latino community
  2. Produce appropriate materials for this population
  3. Create collaborative efforts with other agencies trusted by the Latino community
  4. Involve the faith-based community 
  5. Work with people living in rural communities to establish the line of communication to better understand their needs

To view this information in Spanish, click here.

Para leer la información en Español, haga cliq aquí.