The Bronx is Now Ground Zero for the Coronavirus Pandemic in New York City

A month ago I wrote an article calling for New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to convert the Kingsbridge Armory into a temporary emergency COVID-19 hospital due to the fact that it was only a matter of time before the virus ravaged the people of our borough.

I wrote this not to be an alarmist but because I was painfully aware of how Bronxites were at greater risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19 than any other resident in New York City due to the fact that our borough has consistently been the unhealthiest county in not just the city but the state.

Of those at greatest risk: Asthmatics, diabetics, residents with cardiovascular disease, and the obese, The Bronx has some of the highest rates in the state in each of these categories if not the highest in almost all of them.

And now, because of these very comorbidities which we warned would lead to devastating consequences, our borough has one more sad distinction to add to that list: The Bronx has the rate of infection for the coronavirus than any other borough in the city according to the most recent data available from NYC Department of Health.

This doesn’t mean that there are more people who tested positive for COVID-19 or died as a result from the virus. What it simply means is that the rate of infection is much higher in our borough and a person in The Bronx has a greater risk of dying from it than a resident in, say, Manhattan.

In fact, the mortality rate in The Bronx is more than twice that of Manhattan where in our borough it’s 2,406 Covid-19 positive cases per 100,000 people versus Manhattan’s 1,036 positive cases per 100,000 residents.

It’s a sobering and painful reminder to the rest of the world that the tale of two cities which Mayor Bill de Blasio first campaigned to end is still alive and well in The Bronx.

I say to the rest of the world because we in The Bronx know all too well that this city still operates on inequalities ranging from housing, income, education, and yes, health outcomes.

It is a tale of two cities that is clearly divided by race.

And the mortality statistics clearly show this with Blacks and Latinos dying at twice the rate as White or Asian.

NYC Department of Health racial demographic data on mortality from COVID-19.

All of this is tied to the policies of our elected officials who have kept our borough in poverty.

We have billions of dollars pouring in for market rate housing in the poorest congressional district of the nation with many of our local elected officials supporting such developments but where are they fighting for the health of our residents?

A social media campaign of #Not62 isn’t how you solve a humanitarian and health crisis which many have harped on to bring attention to The Bronx being the unhealthiest of 62 counties in the state.

The same politicians who push this campaign are the same ones who welcomed FreshDirect, a truck reliant and intensive business, to pollute our already deadly air in an area already plagued with some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation.

And it’s not like our residents haven’t organized against these attacks on our health.

Residents and Bronx community based organizations like South Bronx Unite, Nos Quedamos, The Point CDC and so many others have been fighting for the health of our communities, collectively for decades.

There’s a lot of talk about personal responsibility and that ultimately it’s up to the individual to take care of their situations but the people who say that live comfortably in places where they have access to clean air in wide open spaces, parks that are maintained as much as Central Park is, access to quality health care, access to healthy and fresh foods, high paying jobs, quality and FREE education.

To anyone wondering why The Bronx ended up as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, one not need blame or look at our residents, but instead the politicians who have kept us in poverty and have prevented us from enjoying the basic public benefits that the richest nation in the history of the world should have bestowed upon its citizens.

I mean, we still pay our taxes.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.