Coronavirus Dispatches


By The Bronx Journal Staff

Cleaning and sanitizing supplies, paper towels, and toilet paper flew off the shelves in almost every store as people got ready to socially distance themselves. Despite claims that the virus was not as bad as the media was making it out to be from healthcare professionals like Dr. Drew Pinsky, the coronavirus caused pandemonium in the city.

There were a slew of cancellations, closings of schools and a ban of visits to nursing homes in New York. Some believed that COVID-19 was being over-publicized in the media but others were taking it very seriously and were quarantining themselves and their families.

Grocery Stores

Co-Op City

Grocery stores have been declared “essential businesses” and are staying open but they are struggling to meet consumer demand during the coronavirus pandemic. Customers are flooding the aisles of a Food Universe in Co-Op City, bringing the store business but putting stress on the workers to restock shelves.

“This is madness,” said Tiana Williams, a senior citizen in Co Op City. “People are out here buying faster than stores can restock! How can we all stay safe and clean if people (are) buying 10 packs of wipes?”

A worker at Food Universe, who requested to remain nameless, echoed Williams’ concerns. “It’s not our [the store’s] fault there is nothing here,” they said. “Blame the people buying more than they need!” Toilet paper, paper towels and disinfectants have been most in demand during the last two weeks. Workers are also struggling to meet the demand of other non-perishable foods.

Co-Op City is the largest naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) in the nation, with over 8,300 senior citizens; COVID-19 is most dangerous for this demographic. As March 22, more than half of New York City’s coronavirus related deaths (34 out of 63) were patients over the age of 75.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order for all non-essential businesses to close went into effect on Sunday March 22. Businesses deemed “essential” include grocery stores, pharmacies, healthcare operations, garbage collection groups, gas stations, banks, and transportation organizations, among some others. Restaurants are allowed to remain open, so long as they close their dining rooms and only offer take-out and delivery options.

— Michael Forte


Concourse Village

Food Bazaar Supermarket in the Concourse Plaza Mall became a place of pilgrimage for many residents in the area. People went to the supermarket with their personal shopping carts or use the supermarket carts to buy an extreme amount of food, including multiple gallons of water, two to three packages placed at the bottom of the cart, big rolls of toilet paper, rice, meat, detergent, bleach, bread, pasta and cans of food.

The supermarket has been the busiest I have seen it in the years I have lived in the area. People coming in and out and walking down to the parking lot to their cars. Those who carry fewer items such as water wait for a taxi. The lines are so long that the express line almost ends at the entrance. There is not space to walk or you don’t know where a line starts or ends. There was such a high demand for products such as gallons of oil that employers did not have time to restock them, instead were handing them to people straight out of the box.

My sister who attends high school in the Bronx noticed the janitor cleaning the door handles every hour at the entrance and on classroom doors. Also, students who show signs of sickness are separated into a different classroom. Four students in particular were sent to an office and, after they left, everything they touched was disinfected.

— Yanibel Fernandez

 

Governor Andrew Cuomo says New York inmates will be making hand sanitizer.

Hospitals

As mass hysteria sets in, local healthcare professionals gave their opinions on the virus as well as how they are preparing for it.

A lab technician that works for a Bronx hospital, who asked to remain unnamed, claims that not much is being done to prepare for the lethal virus at his place of work, but he is taking matters into his own hands. “Personally, what I’m doing is wearing a very good mask, it’s called the N95. I am wearing that at work. I wash my hands frequently and I try to build my immune system by taking 1000 mg of vitamin C daily and I also take regular daily vitamins.”

He added that he believes that the virus has something to do with the world’s lifestyle and God. “My personal feeling is that this is a punishment from God,” he said. “Because we are wicked and things that we are doing and there is no remorse for it.”

— Nicollette Samuels

Schools

Yonkers

Yonkers school’s district was closed first for a “deep cleaning,” according to Deana Robinson, who serves Councilwoman Shanae Williams. “It is truly stressful but necessary,” she said. Schools like School 5 postponed any trips until May and canceled all after school activities. This has impacted children who attend the school.

Cree Kerson, a first-grader at the school was disappointed. “I was looking forward to the trip to the museum with my friends,” said Kerson. The closure of schools and after school programs has sent parents into a frenzy. Many parents can’t afford childcare and afterschool programs allow them to dodge that extra expense. “The after school program allows me just enough time to get off the train and get to the school in time, to pick up my son,” said Courtnay Reed, a mom who works in downtown Manhattan.

Some parents are now considering the option of homeschooling, at least until things calm down. There are many questions that people have and, in some cases, aren’t receiving the answers. Everyone is being told to stay calm, don’t panic and wash your hands.

— Christian Fitch

Apartment Buildings

South Bronx

Living in the South Bronx, many people especially in my building are really paranoid. Signs have been placed on elevators and doors as well as in the local bodegas. When bringing my child to school this morning, a fellow mom’s shared her perspective on the coronavirus ordeal.

“This whole outbreak is literally the scariest thing I have ever gone through,” she said. “Like all you do now is look over your shoulder or constantly reapply hand sanitizer after touching almost everything. It feels like the world is slowly ending.”

We both felt that our local public school should shut down and do a thorough cleaning of the premises. Another challenge for parents is informing children about what is going on in the world around them.

— Carllene Brooks-Oden


Washington Heights

Walter Chamberlain, a superintendent in Washington Heights, was planning on getting some cleaning supplies from the management office. “I called the manager and he told me he would get back to me but I haven’t heard anything from him yet,” he said. “My wife is fanatic when it comes to these problems. She bought hand sanitizers and wipes for the house. Though the hand sanitizers cost more when she bought it.”

People have been very cautious when it comes to the building possibly being contaminated. Chamberlain said he was trying to make the building safer for people by killing all of the bacteria and viruses. He said he has been washing his hands whenever he takes out the trash because he was concerned it could carry the coronavirus. He has been following the rule of washing his hands for 20 seconds in case he had any viruses.

— Fernando Murcia

Queens

Evelyn Chango, 26, a Sunnyside resident is afraid. The fear she has is not for herself but more for her parents. There is a greater chance that adults over 60 years old will ill if infected.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the people who may be at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

“I even fought with my fiancé because I’m currently not leaving my house and he works a job where he’s interacting with people constantly, said Chango. “If I were home alone, I wouldn’t mind seeing him but I’m not going to be irresponsible and not think about my parents. I would never be able to forgive myself.”

Chango is very aware of the consequences she and her family would have to face if coming into contact with someone with positive results of the coronavirus. This is why she doesn’t allow anyone into her home.

“My mother suffers from hypertension and thank God she has two weeks’ worth of medicine but I’ve been debating about going to CVS to get more of her prescribed medicine,” she said. “I take all of this very seriously and I’m scared.”

As supermarkets were quickly emptying out with products, Chango made sure she had canned foods, water, frozen meats, and frozen meals as well as toilet paper and cleaning supplies for her home.

“I honestly hope this all ends very soon,” Chango added. “I want to go back to my normal activities. One things for sure, I appreciate life, everyone and everything in it.”

— Gisela Cazar

West Farms

As the number of those infected by the coronavirus grows, the number of people ‘prepping’ skyrocketed. The term ‘prepping’ is often associated with people who go above and beyond the normal in order to prepare (hence the term) for what may be considered the apocalypse or at least a close approximation. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappeared from the shelves in places that sell toiletries. A visit to my local Price Choice supermarket showed that the toiletry aisle was sorely lacking in, well, toiletries but especially toilet paper.

Josue Fernandez, a resident of the Bronx, walked into the supermarket in hopes of stocking up on toilet paper. “I asked one of the guys at the register, some guy really just walked in here and bought half the aisle!” he said. Even worse was that this was Fernandez’s second time coming across an empty aisle. “At the 99¢ store across the street, all the hand sanitizer was gone,” he said. “I ask a clerk and she says that someone bought just about all of them. Who does that?” It’s likely that Fernandez was unfortunate enough to be following the trail of a prepper and even more likely that he isn’t the only one to leave empty handed when searching for supplies. After visiting my local Price Choice, the local 99¢ store and five different bodegas (only one of which had both toilet paper and hand sanitizer but not much of it) did it become clear that at least, this toiletry shortage is affecting the West Farms area and the U.S. in general.

— David Acevedo

 

The coronavirus, which causes the illness Covid-19, was first confirmed in Wuhan, China. Some politicians, media outlets, and social media users have referred to it as the “Chinese Virus.” The label has escalated unwarranted racism against Asian-Americans.

President Trump has used the term repeatedly while addressing the nation. He said it’s because Chinese officials accused the American military of spreading the virus.

In 2015, the WHO officially recognized the upsetting consequences of naming infectious diseases based on their place of origin or ethnic population and advised the media and others against doing so.

Notwithstanding, there has been a rise in racist attacks and behavior against Asian-American communities. Many Asian-Americans have reported racial profiling, verbal and physical violence and microaggressions.

A New Yorker reporter wrote about her experience on Twitter. She said that, as she took out the trash, a man overheard her speaking Chinese on the phone. He proceeded to curse at her and call her “Fucking Chinese.” Many users shared similar situations and expressed fear for their families.

“I’m not sure if I want to wear a mask, because I’ve already experienced looks while commuting,” said one Chinese-American NYU student who wanted to remain anonymous. “It’s sad that at this critical time some people have chosen to spread hate.”

In response, Pride Train, a popular group on social media, has hung up signs throughout New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) stations. The signs are an effort towards solidarity, informing riders to stay safe and “Fight the virus, not the people.”

If you experience a hate crimes or bias-based incidents, you can call the  New York Attorney General’s hotline at 1-800-771-7755, or email Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov

— Melanie Correa

H&M Takes on Covid-19

H&M in Harlem, located at 125 West 125th Street, took precautionary steps after the outbreak of the coronavirus. Several employees were constantly cleaning away germs with hand sanitizers. Every register was stationed with a bottle of hand sanitizer. Store manager Jennifer Sutton provided the cashiers with disinfectant wipes in addition to hand sanitizers. Employees were constantly wiping down their registers, counters, computer screens, and the card payment machines too.

Several experts have suggested that the virus can be transferred while dealing with money. A few employees, including myself, chose to wear disposable gloves during our shifts to avoid coming in contact with the virus. Other employees chose to not wear disposable gloves during their shifts because it can be hard to work effectively while wearing them. Others felt that it was unnecessary to wear them because they believed they have strong immune systems.

Two female nurses who came in were impressed by my gloves. “Not many people are wearing gloves during this pandemic especially while being in public,” they said. “I salute you for making a good choice of wearing gloves while at work.”

On March 14, 2020, Stefan Vos, country sales manager and country controller of H&M, ordered all stores reduce store hours from 10AM to 9PM to 11AM to 8PM and close some fitting rooms. As of March 17, 2020, all H&M stores were temporarily closed until further notice. Momentarily, there still is not an official reopening date yet.

— Ashley Negron

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