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COVID-19's impact on the Bronx

By Jessica Schwartz

Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.

New York, NY – As of April 14, the death toll from COVID-19 jumped by 3700, up to 10,000 in New York City. While the Bronx’s confirmed infection rate is in line with the city’s, the borough has the highest per-case fatality rate in NYC. There are various conditions that make the people of the Bronx especially vulnerable to the virus.

The Bronx is predominantly Black and Latino and has higher rates of poverty compared to the rest of the city. The poverty rate is at 28.4%, 10% higher than the citywide average, and makes up for 60% of the city’s low-income residents. One in four of the city’s 400,000 New York City Housing Authority residents live in the Bronx. This includes the many elderly people who are more susceptible to the coronavirus.

Many people have various medical issues that make them less immune to the coronavirus, especially in the South Bronx. Diabetes, asthma and hypertension are just some of the conditions linked with coronavirus complications. These illnesses can be linked to the fact that The Bronx is considered a food desert, where one in four residents are food insecure, and because pollution is rampant. The South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven, where 97% of the population is Black or Latino, has some of the worst air pollution in the country, contributing to the borough’s high rate of asthma.

Healthcare in the Bronx is also not adequately funded or supported. As a result, the hospitals in the Bronx are not fully equipped to handle the pandemic. On April 1, nurses with the New York State Nurses Association protested outside of Montefiore Hospital demanding N95 masks and other PPE. While temporary hospitals have been set up in Central Park and the Javits Center, the construction of a field hospital in Van Cortlandt Park is not expected to be completed for another three weeks. When Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Lincoln Hospital, the only public hospital in the South Bronx, he was met with protesters demanding coronavirus testing, because there are currently none available there.

While the city has recently approved to spend over $8 billion for four new jails, such money would be better spent on fixing the healthcare system and poverty that disproportionately affects the people of the Bronx. Until a new system – one that prioritizes healthcare and makes sure no one lives in poverty – is put into place, the Bronx will continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19 in the city.

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