How to increase testing has been an issue since the early weeks of COVID-19 shutdowns. The added sites and drive-thru options have helped, yet there are many who have no access to a car. Saturday, July 18, 2020, approximately 300 individuals went through the Florida City Centro Campesino facility for walk-up testing. As promoted in their flier, “Any age, regardless of symptoms (Children must be with parent or legal guardian); No appointment or identification required.” The Florida Department of Health conducted the tests. Mujer, INC, American Friends Service Committee, the Farmworker Association, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice were partners in supporting and broadcasting the event.
“Getting everyone tested is what’s important,” John Martinez, Executive Director, explained. Centro Campesino is one of more than forty organizations within the South Florida Migrant Services Provider (MSP) Group headed by the Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations (COFFO). “Centro Campesino empowers families and strengthens communities by providing affordable housing, homeownership support, and economic and educational opportunities. We envision a thriving community that leverages diversity and collaboration to create a pathway to economic opportunity.”
MSP Group has been heavily involved in on-going efforts to support working families affected by COVID-19, especially as a voice to increase testing. With this area as a national “hot spot”, three representatives from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta traveled to South Florida. They sat down with eight individuals from local organizations, including Rural Neighborhoods, COFFO, Mujer, The Farmworker Association, Centro Campesino, and Florida Department of Health Friday, June 26, 2020 for a face-to-face meeting.
Martinez said the group conveyed three core messages to CDC. First, “Accurate messaging is important. Too many in South Florida do not believe that COVID-19 affects them or their family. Some think that Covid-19 may only affect Grandma, but no one else in the family. Others do not believe that they need to have to wear masks, or in social distancing, such as the people testifying at a Palm Beach County Commission meeting, stating that “masks are the devils work”!
Second, “COFID-19 Testing – Increased and Intensified testing is needed and sooner than later. *A most Critical Issue in the Southernmost area of Miami Dade County. Testing in this area has been sporadic at best, but not consistent or readily available.” Third, “COVID-19 Tracers Testers are needed (people who traces exposure trails).
The FL Department of Health needs to hire immediately, or with funding, local organizations will/can hire.”
Martinez added information about their continuing COVID-19 Testing Outreach. “The Health Foundation of South Florida awarded a grant to Centro Campesino and their partner organizations to conduct COVID-19 testing outreach in the local communities of Florida City, Homestead, and the unincorporated area (zip codes 33034, 33033, and 33050).
Centro Campesino and its five partner organizations will conduct door to door home visits and ensure that COVID-19 testing outreach is provided in target areas to ensure that residents (families and their children) have access to COVID-19 Information, masks & other PPE, and information on testing sites to ensure the opportunity for COVID-19 Virus testing. This work will begin in August 2020.”
Founded in 1972, Centro Campesino serves south and into central Florida in housing development, home ownership solutions, property management, education/workforce development, disaster relief and recovery, community revitalization, and leadership development. The high cost of housing is always an issue and the economic impact of closures and reduced availability of employment due to COVID-19 are of special concern. Many individuals work multiple jobs and without that income the ability to pay rent, utilities, and buy food is severely at risk. Centro Campesino has received almost 1,000 applications for emergency rental assistance and food support from Miami-Dade residents and over 2,000 from Monroe County. They have also distributed almost 6,200 meals/food boxes to families in need. To learn more and how to support their efforts, go to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn sites or http://centrocampesino.org
The staff and organization can be contacted by mail:
35801 SW 186 Ave, Florida City, FL 33034; (305) 245-7738.