Many Latinos Couldn’t Stay Home. Now Covid Cases Are Soaring in their Communities.


Rachel P. Cullen, the company’s chief executive, said that as with many companies, Ruiz’s initial response was to give employees the option to work at home, and to take vacation days or unpaid time off if their jobs could not be done remotely.

After Easter, however, the case count in Tulare County shot up, and the company moved aggressively to address the virus. Testing was mandated for all employees, Ms. Cullen said in a statement, and “increased physical distancing, mandatory mask wearing, flexible barriers, symptom monitoring and temperature screening, limiting visitors and travel restrictions” were quickly put into place.

No employees have died from Covid-19, Ms. Cullen said, but the Dinuba plant became a hot spot, and two workers were hospitalized. She said 331 employees have recovered from Covid-19 since April, and about 15 have active infections.

Ms. Ramirez suspects that she caught the virus in the company lunchroom, where tables are now cordoned off to enforce social distancing. On the production line where she works with hundreds of other people, she said, sheets of plastic separate employees and bottles of hand sanitizer have been placed at every walkway. That was not the case before April, she said.

Still, she doesn’t blame her employer. “A lot of us didn’t believe in Covid at the beginning,” she said in Spanish. “I didn’t, because I didn’t know anyone who had it until I got it myself.”

A week after her test results came back, her 20-year-old daughter, Cynthia Orozco, also tested positive. Because her daughter also watches Ms. Ramirez’s two youngest children, ages 2 and 10, the doctor told Ms. Ramirez to assume that they, too, had the virus.



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