As the numbers of people infected by the coronavirus drop across Washington, cases in Yakima County have quadrupled and 64% of those infections have hit folks in the Latino community, so many of whom make up the work force that keeps this state’s agricultural industry going.

The situation in Yakima is a good illustration of how the COVID-19 pandemic is largely sparing the rich and plaguing the poor. There are few, if any, stories of millionaire hedge fund managers dying from the virus, but there are daily tales of non-white working class people getting sick and dying while laboring at low-paying jobs, from the fruit packing plants of Washington to meat processing operations in South Dakota.

Though some good progress has been made making the workplaces safer for these folks in Yakima and elsewhere, there are still too many people in both industry and government who continue to ignore the plight of those whose toil makes it possible for us to put food on our tables. They need to be treated as essential, not expendable.

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