Tag Archives: essential workers

Free, Easy COVID-19 Testing in Santa Clara County!

Residents in Santa Clara County can now get free and easy COVID-19 testing in their neighborhoods.  The county just launched six new and expanded drive-through and pop-up locations at community centers, parking lots, and county health system in Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View and San Jose.

People get who get tested at these sites pay nothing for the test.

“It’s fast, free and you don’t need insurance,” said Cindy Chavez, President of the Board of Supervisors, urging residents to advantage of the opportunity to get tested in their neighborhood.

“The County is bringing testing capacity to where it’s needed.”

The locations were chosen based on data showing a higher rate of recent cases in these areas compared to nearby areas. By adding six new locations, the county now has at least 46 sites offering COVID-19 viral detection testing.

Frontline Workers  Need Monthly Testing
The county recommends that essential workers (grocery store clerks, food delivery workers, retail associates, first responders, and other frontline workers), who regularly interact with the public to get tested at least once a month going forward, even if they have no symptoms at all. Testing can identify the infection before a person feels unwell or before they spread it to another person with potentially deadly consequences.

“I encourage everyone to protect themselves and their family by scheduling a test at one of our test sites throughout Santa Clara County,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian. The tests offered are viral detection tests, which diagnose a person who currently has the infection.

Mobile testing services will be available at Rengstorff Park in the City of Mountain View. “We need everyone – including cities, the County, and private healthcare providers and labs,’ noted Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, “to do their part to help us get through this crisis.”

Walk-up testing at outdoor “pop-up” sites will be available available without an appointment, insurance or doctor’s note, at Mountain View (May 25 & May 27 and in San Jose (May 29).

Monday, May 25, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040

Wednesday, May 27, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040

Friday, May 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
La Placita Tropicana Shopping Center parking lot, 1630 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

Drive-thru testing will be available 7 days a week at four county health system locations in Milpitas, Morgan Hill and San Jose. These require appointments which can be made online at sccfreetest.org or by calling 888-334-1000.

  • 1325 East Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas, CA 95035 (location subject to change)
  • 18550 De Paul Dr., Morgan Hill, CA 95037
  • 777 E Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95112
  • 1993 McKee Road, San Jose, CA 95116

For more information on testing go to www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/covid19-testing-learn-more.aspx#types.

For information on test sites call 211 or go to sccfreetest.org. The site is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Tagalog.



Integrate, Don’t Scapegoat Immigrants To Thrive

America is finally beginning to understand that immigrant communities, including undocumented workers, are the backbone of the nation’s economy and deserve protection as they bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, said California Insurance Commissioner Riccardo Lara.

At a telebriefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services on April 22, Lara reiterated the state’s commitment to its immigrant community by announcing protections for essential workers affected by COVID-19.

“As we figure out how to survive as a community we need to make sure that our immigrants are protected.”

In the midst of the pandemic, Californians, like the rest of the nation, rely more than ever on ‘supply and logistics troops’  to deliver essentials that help them abide by shelter in place  mandates.

Essential workers include low paid ‘warehouse workers, shelf-stockers, supermarket cashiers, UPS drivers, municipal employees, and home health aides, among others,’ for whom sick leave is an impossible luxury, writes George Packer in The Atlantic. “In a smartphone economy that hides whole classes of human beings, we’re learning where our food and goods come from, who keeps us alive.”

“When you look at who’s doing the farm labor, delivering our groceries, working in warehouses and packing the goods we’re buying online, it’s primarily immigrants who are doing those jobs and are now considered essential workers,” Lara pointed out.

He confirms that insurance commissioners across the country agree that immigrants are essential workers in essential parts of the economy like food production, manufacturing, or construction.

“Finally, broader society is understanding that the work that immigrants do are essential services, and seeing first-hand how essential they are to the economy of the country and the state of California.”

COVID19 Takes Grim Toll of Frontline Workers

Nearly a quarter of the nation’s undocumented immigrants reside in California. The Cato Institute reports that immigrants form 33 percent of all California’s essential workers, with about 4.6 million immigrants engaged in producing food and equipment, maintaining operations at hospitals and research facilities, and distributing supplies across the state.

They are also the most at risk of dying from on the job exposure to COVID19, performing jobs deemed “essential” for society.

In New York, nearly one in five workers most at risk for COVID-19 exposure are non-citizens, says its comptroller, of  a city where a staggering 83  MTA workers have died. In California, healthcare workers have been hit hard by the virus with 4,453 testing positive, accounting for 11% of total infections statewide.

What Protections are offered?

California will shield its immigrant workers during the pandemic by giving them the right to file claims if they fall ill with exposure to COVID 19 in the course of their work.

New initiatives will build on measures California has already implemented to protect its workers, regardless of their immigration status.

Under California law all workers including undocumented workers Injured on the job are eligible for  workers comp. In 2015, as a member of the California State Senate, Lara expanded protections for undocumented workers injured on the job, to include compensation in addition to standard workers’ compensation benefits.

In March this year, Governor Gavin Newsome responded to the pandemic with an executive order endorsing workers eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits if they are exposed to or contract COVID-19 on the job.

Later in April Newsome announced a $75 million disaster relief fund to provide monetary relief for immigrant workers affected by COVID-19, pioneering a statewide public-private partnership with philanthropic partners who have committed to raising an additional $50 million in financial assistance. The fund will pay a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult, capped at $1,000 per household, reports NBCnews.

“This unprecedented pandemic has sparked questions and concerns among essential workers in the immigrant community who are showing up for work every day, bringing us vital goods and services,”  said Lara.

So, California will ensure that workers engaged in front-line occupations such as health care, emergency services, food production, sales, and delivery, among others, get the protection they deserve.

“We want them to access healthcare if they fall sick, we want them to contribute as essential workers without fear of losing their license, or the discounts they are entitled to. If they have healthcare we give them a 60-day grace period to allow them to pay their premiums and keep their healthcare for themselves and their families,” Lara emphasized.

New healthcare directives will cut the cost of co-pays and cost sharing for COVID 19 tests, enable workers to file claims and find access to test and treatment; and, law enforcement will be asked to refrain from ticketing people with invalid licenses.

Lara has issued a Notice to alert insurance companies that all workers exposed to COVID-19 are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they fall ill, regardless of their immigration status; claims cannot be denied on the basis of an injured worker’s immigration status.

Auto insurance companies are being asked not to change premium rates for people with expired licenses (as most of the undocumented community tend to have AV 60 licenses), and to make sure consumers don’t lose discounts.

Lara has ordered insurance companies to adjust premiums and issue refunds to consumers via credit or check, and contact customers to return those refunds.

His department will first screen the refund process says Lara, to verify that insurance companies offer the maximum discounts possible – up to 50 to 70% in some cases – to  accurately reflect the reduced risk of fewer drivers and accidents on the road. Refunds will be extended through May if the stay-at-home orders continue.

Lara also is coordinating with the Dept of Industrial Relations to resolve coronavirus claims, workers compensation and any insurance-related issues. His department will track claims coming out of the workers comp system to determine if undocumented workers are covered, and make sure claims not being denied because of their legal status.

Multilingual staff and experts will be available (at 1-800-927-4357) to answer all queries – whether it’s employee access to PPE, getting extensions on insurance payments or calling insurance companies on behalf of workers to find options.

The Pandemic and People of Color 

“People of color, immigrant groups, always bear the brunt of societal ills,” noted Lara, “and this pandemic is no different. But we can answer any queries on helping people understand what their rights are.”

As the Trump administration doubles down on unfounded threats from immigrants with executive orders on sanctuary cities, border security and the recent temporary immigration ban to protect American jobs, immigrant communities are under siege.

Fear of falling foul of rulings like the Public Charge is keeping undocumented residents and workers from signing up for safety net programs for which they are eligible, say advocacy groups.

Lara has a message for them. “Essential workers don’t have to put themselves at risk. Don’t forgo your safety. If you are at risk, get resources that protect your health and safety, so you can continue doing your work.”

Incorporate Don’t Scapegoat Our Immigrants

Lara says it’s ironic that the public are only beginning to recognize the contributions of immigrants in the midst of a pandemic. But California is setting the national standard for bringing immigrant communities out of the shadows.

“What we’ve done here in California, “in terms of bills we have promulgated, is to demonstrate that we can actually incorporate everyone into our economy and the economy continues to grow.”

By giving immigrants services, health benefits, schooling and opportunities to participate socially and understand their rights – helps absorb them so they contribute to the economy at a greater scale than possible, remarked Lara, who is the son of undocumented immigrants. “Quite honestly…immigrants that are coming here contribute in significantly more than other groups.”

What California has clearly demonstrated to the nation says Lara, is that by integrating not scapegoating its immigrant and undocumented populations, California’s economy continues to grow and thrive. “California is the fifth largest economy in world.”

“The sky doesn’t fall.”

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


CA Drivers Should Get 50% Refund During Lockdown

Drivers should get a 50% to 70% refund on their auto insurance premium for the duration of California’s shelter-in-place mandate, said state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara April 22.

“We feel 50% to 70% percent is fair,” Lara told reporters at a briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services. “You should be getting more of a refund because, frankly, you’re not driving.”

On April 13 Lara ordered the state’s auto insurance companies to refund premiums to drivers at least for April, and possibly May, if California continues its stay-at-home order. His order, according to a statement released by his office, extended to six types of insurance: private passenger automobile, commercial automobile, workers’ compensation, commercial multiperil, commercial liability, medical malpractice, and any other insurance in which the risk of loss has fallen substantially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With Californians driving fewer miles and many businesses closed due to the COVID-19 emergency, consumers need relief from premiums that no longer reflect their present-day risk of accident or loss,” Lara said as he introduced the order. “Today’s mandatory action will put money back in people’s pockets when they need it most.”

Some companies subsequently issued refunds or credits of 15% to 20%, but the insurance commissioner believes companies must go further: Risks have been dramatically reduced as the state’s roads remain far more untraveled.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara speaks during the Ethnic Media Services briefing.

Lara encouraged people who have lost their jobs to ask their auto insurance carriers to delay payments of premiums for up to two months. To get help with such calls, people can call his office — 1-800-927-4357 — where his staff speak multiple languages. His office also has asked insurance carriers to allow a 60-day grace period for paying premiums during California’s shelter-in-place mandate and even beyond, as the state re-opens its economy in stages.

Lara also has asked insurance companies to extend coverage to drivers making deliveries with their personal cars. Typically, personal auto insurance doesn’t cover those who use their cars for commercial purposes.

At the briefing, the state insurance commissioner — the son of undocumented parents — spoke about how immigrant workers benefit nation’s economy.

“The broader community is finally realizing how essential they are,” said Lara, noting undocumented workers’ contributions to food production, processing, delivery, warehouse work and similar services. “Leaders across the country are recognizing the value of immigrant workers. We have demonstrated in our state that the sky doesn’t fall when you incorporate everyone into our economy.”

Lara added that the United States must “get (undocumented workers) out of the shadows, incorporate them into our economy as quickly as possible, and get their kids into school. Our economy will grow by embracing our immigrant community, rather than scapegoating them.”

In California, one out of every 10 workers is undocumented, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The Pew Research Center reports that the state’s labor force includes about 1.75 million undocumented immigrants, the largest number of whom live in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties.

Although undocumented workers were denied the $1,200 federal stimulus check mandated by Congress’ first COVID-19 relief package, here in California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $125 million relief package for undocumented workers April 16, the first of its kind in the nation.

Lara encouraged immigrant workers to apply for workers compensation if they become infected with COVID-19 on the job. He noted that the Trump administration’s public charge enforcement has scared away many immigrants from applying for benefits to which they are entitled. Workers also should advocate for personal protective equipment at their job sites, he said, and they should call his office if adequate protections aren’t provided.

Sunita Sohrabji is a contributor to Ethnic Media Services

image: EMS
Photo by Barna Bartis on Unsplash