Community in the Time of Covid with Puente de la Costa Sur
By: Marianna Zavala
Since the middle of January, I have had the opportunity to work with Puente de la Costa Sur staff as they continue to serve our South Coast San Mateo County community. A full year into the pandemic, Puente has successfully tailored many of its services to meet the specific challenges of Pescadero, and its neighboring rural communities of La Honda, Loma Mar, and San Gregorio.
As a South Coast community-based non profit, Puente works closely with the county of San Mateo. This partnership has resulted in a variety of community projects including at-home water testing, a climate forum dedicated to understanding and meeting the energy usage and needs, and coordinated COVID-19 education efforts.
Over the last year, almost all of Puente’s regular in-person services have been altered to meet COVID-19 protocols and the staff has had to work hard to increase outreach to families through text, emails, and Zoom calls. Building on relationships cultivated for more than 20 years, Puente staff has been able to provide services such as rental assistance, mental health support, COVID-19 testing, and food distribution to community members in need.
Many of Puente’s participants are Latinx residents who are essential workers employed on farms and ranches of the South Coast. Like other front-line workers of color, however, they are the ones most at-risk of the devastating impacts of the virus. An excerpt from one of Puente’s most recent newsletters described the situation as follows:
“Discussions of ‘working from home’ were simply never a reality for a vast number of Puente participants who have been working outside the home throughout the pandemic. Nationally, workers with earnings in the lowest percentile have been the least likely to work from home, and paid sick leave is rarely afforded to agricultural workers.”
Puente’s Health and Safety Net Team works daily to combat this disparity. Bilingual support staff travel to local farms and ranches on a weekly basis to speak with workers and check on families. Recently, I have been able to shadow Puente’s Community Outreach Associate, Dalia Huerta, as well as public health nurse, Mayela Perez, in their work. Perez is part of San Mateo County’s Street and Field Medicine Team, a mobile group working in partnership with Puente to provide vulnerable communities on the coast access to comprehensive healthcare. On any given day, Perez will do everything from blood pressure checks and blood draws to delivering medications from the pharmacy. While Perez manages the medical tasks, Huerta shares information on additional Puente programs and follows up with participants needing assistance with paperwork, rent, food, or other financial relief.
Thanks to Puente’s advocacy and successful collaboration with the County, a path has been cleared for more health resources to be brought to the South Coast. Earlier in the month, San Mateo County announced that “1B” workers (teachers, law enforcement, agricultural workers) would be eligible to receive vaccines starting February 22nd. As a result, Puente’s next big push will be to manage vaccine clinics — alongside the county’s Street and Field Medicine Team — for agricultural workers in Pescadero. There will be four walk-through vaccine clinic dates, Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., starting February 26th. For more information on the vaccination clinics, check out this article from the Half Moon Bay Review.
If you would like to support Puente de la Costa Sur’s programs or their COVID-19 Public Health Response Fund, please read more here.