“My community fears that the government might be trying to get rid of us,” said Oralia Maceda Méndez, an advocate at a Fresno-based community group for Indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico. She has heard many stories from immigrants in her community who treat themselves for Covid-19 with penicillin, other antibiotics or a mix of vitamins and herbal therapies bought from shops or travelers selling medications bought in Mexico.
“I am not surprised that people are taken advantage of,” she said. “We don’t have the care we need.”
Some farmworkers have received unproven treatments at specialty clinics. A woman in Fresno recently described how her husband, a farmworker, had fallen so sick from Covid-19 that he couldn’t breathe or walk, but he refused to go to the hospital because he had heard rumors that undocumented immigrants had checked in and never left. She took him to a wellness clinic, where a doctor gave him injectable peptide treatments, recalled the woman, who requested anonymity because of her immigration status.
She wasn’t prepared, she said, for the $1,400 bill, which included the cost of syringes and vials labeled thymosin-alpha 1, BPC-157 and LL-37. Pulling them out of a cabinet in the kitchen of her mobile home, she said she didn’t know exactly what they were, and she still feels the sting of the price.
“I was shocked, but I was trying to act like it was OK because I had to be strong for my husband and my kids,” she said. He grew sicker despite the injections, but the family had no funds left for care. More than a month passed before he was well enough to return to the fields.
Sandra Celedon, the president of a coalition of grass-roots organizations called Fresno Building Health Communities, said she and her colleagues have heard from several farmworkers and other low-income Latino immigrants who spent their savings on vitamin infusions and peptide therapies for Covid. “These folks are the poorest of the poor, and yet the doctors were requesting cash for their unproven treatments,” she said.