CORONA, Queens — Queens, and Corona specifically, are considered one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 crisis. in New York.
The Latino community has been among the hardest hit with a disproportionate number of deaths.
Corona resident Jose Ortiz has faced a difficult decision eryday since the start of the pandemic just to go to work.
"I either go to work get sick or stay home and my family dies from hunger," Ortiz said in Spanish.
Mercy Ortiz, his wife, lost her job. She now stands in a food pantry line at her church each day to feed her and her 6-year-old daughter, Kiara.
"We are the forgotten ones," she said in Spanish.
Times have been hard for this family, who just lost a cousin to the infectious disease. They're not alone.
According to New York City’s Department of Health, 30% of COVID-19 deaths are Latinos, though they make up just 29% of the city’s residents. The highest number of COVID-19 deaths in new York city have been among Latinos so far.
The borough with the highest number of deaths is Wueens. East Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights are some of the hardest hit neighborhoods.
“This community has to go out and keep working as the essential work force. They are sustaining the city and they are paying the price,” said Guillermo Chacon, founder of the Hispanic Health Network
Chacon said poverty and lack of access to health care were issues in the community before the pandemic
The city is now working with organizations like Somos Care, that provide much needed community based services. More testing sites are opening to specifically serve children.
“We know that testing and contact tracing are the only way out of this," said Chacon.
Another factor contributing to the high death rate: immigration status. Many are not seeking medical help, fearing retaliation.
“In a beautiful city like New York City, a lot of us are invisible. They are undocumented. They are afraid to tell their stories,” said Maria Cornejo, director of the Elmhurst Community Partnership.
Cornejo said building trust within the Latino community is the first step in making sure the spread is contained. Creating more testing and contact tracing in COVID-19 hot spots is essential, as well as the city working with outreach groups.
The city is opening 25 pediatric clinics across the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods in Queens and the Bronx.
For a list of those sites, click here.