CARIBBEAT: COVID-19′s fatal connect with Caribbean- and African-Americans in the city

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In recent weeks, city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has had several solo performances — repeatedly asking New York City officials to release COVID-19 data by race.

And last week, his solo became part of a full-fledged chorus of city, state and federal authorities, all highlighting the disproportionate affect of the pandemic virus on the black communities in America, which include Caribbean-Americans.

In New York, disparities by race were revealed several weeks ago when the city Health Department shared a map detailing — by zip code area — communities where a sizable number of tested residents were found to be COVID-19-positive.

But unfortunately, despite the map’s stark and startling clear data, its release garnered just a sliver to zero coverage and concern from mainstream New York media outlets at the time.

NYC public advocate Jumaane Williams, center, with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, left, and Barbara William, right, holds a press conference outside the Food Bazaar Supermarket where it has been reported on price-gouging cans of Lysol at 21 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, New York.
NYC public advocate Jumaane Williams, center, with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, left, and Barbara William, right, holds a press conference outside the Food Bazaar Supermarket where it has been reported on price-gouging cans of Lysol at 21 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, New York.

According to the map, a number of neighborhoods with sizable Caribbean-American populations — such as Wakefield in the Bronx; Flatbush, East Flatbush and Crown Heights in Brooklyn, and Jamaica in Queens — were shown to be among the areas hardest hit by coronavirus.

“A perfect storm of these inequities,” is how Williams describes the longtime lingering medical issues complicating the coronavirus crisis for people of color and poor New Yorkers.

Obesity, diabetes, asthma and hypertension — added to a reluctance to seek medical service due to lack of health care — result in sicker compromised patients entering emergency rooms, with too often fatal results in this time of COVID-19. They also often hold jobs as front line workers, which increase the chance of exposure to the virus.

The chorus now citing the racial coronavirus data includes Williams, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Gov. Cuomo has joined a growing number of officials bringing attention to and questioning historic health disparities experienced by black communities in New York and elsewhere in the U.S. Caribbean- and African-Americans are experiencing a higher instances of coronavirus due to underlying medical problems and holding jobs as front line workers.Gov. Cuomo has joined a growing number of officials bringing attention to and questioning historic health disparities experienced by black communities in New York and elsewhere in the U.S. Caribbean- and African-Americans are experiencing a higher instances of coronavirus due to underlying medical problems and holding jobs as front line workers.

“Yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they [African-Americans] are suffering disproportionately, those are the things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate,” said Fauci, adding that “there will still be health disparities which we really need to address in the African-American community.”

Cuomo, a vocal member of the chorus, asked, “Why is is that the poorest people always pay the highest price?” citing the historic health disparities and also calling for the situation to be addressed after the current crisis ends.

And hopefully, these generations-old ills and health disparities will finally be addressed — by government and the affected community residents — and not just be the flavor of the day in news cycles.

Roy Hastick remembered

I will always remember Roy Hastick — the founder, president and CEO of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who died last week — as a “push and pull” person.

But Hastick’s “push and pull” was in no way adversarial. It was the opposite — encouraging and motivational!

Roy Hastick founder, president and CEO of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who died Thursday, leaves a strong legacy of assisting and advising business owners and individuals in an array of fields.
Roy Hastick founder, president and CEO of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who died Thursday, leaves a strong legacy of assisting and advising business owners and individuals in an array of fields.(Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

Since the 1985 founding of the chamber, Hastick has been “pushing forward” and “pulling up” novice, aspiring and veteran business owners, politicians and community leaders and thousands of everyday folks — always enthusiastically sharing his professional resources and personal knowledge. Hastick will be remembered as an admirable role model, mentor and friend to many.

All acknowledgements for the family can be sent to rhastick.motes@gmail.com

Listing the Carib fallen

The News Americas Now website is working hard to memorialize the growing number of Caribbean immigrants who have died from COVID-19 by compiling a list.

Hesronni Cayenne, 48, born in Carriacou, Grenada, and vice chairman of the structure division of Transport Workers Union Local 100; Brooklyn Democracy Academy Principal Dez-Ann Romain, 36, who had Trinidad and Tobago roots, and Anthony Hall, secretary of the Barbados Ex-Policemen’s Association, are some of the people on the list.

The News Americas Now website is working hard to memorialize the growing number of Caribbean immigrants who have died from COVID-19 by compiling a list.
The News Americas Now website is working hard to memorialize the growing number of Caribbean immigrants who have died from COVID-19 by compiling a list.

“As such, we are doing our best to keep track and make sure each name is memorialized,” said News Americas Now Chief Operating Officer Felicia Persaud, asking the public to submit names and short biographies, including age and occupation, for the list.

To add an individual to the News Americas Now COVID-19 memorial list, send names of friends or family members. Add contributions as comments to the News Americas Now Facebook page.

Pastor’s holiday comeback

Making an Easter Sunday return, Pastor A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center megachurch is looking forward to get back into his virtual pulpit — and discuss his recent personal COVID-19 experience with his congregation.

“I’m looking forward to sharing my recovery story with you tomorrow during our @cccinfoorg worship experience,” the popular and influentual tweeted Saturday.

Pastor A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center IN Brooklyn — who tested positive for the coronavirus, was hospitalized and released — will be back in his virtual pulpit for a live-streamed Easter Sunday services.
Pastor A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center IN Brooklyn — who tested positive for the coronavirus, was hospitalized and released — will be back in his virtual pulpit for a live-streamed Easter Sunday services.(Twitter.com)

Members and supporters of the 37,000-plus congregation megachurch sent out powerful prayers and heartfelt messages of concern and support for the 66-year-old Panama-born religious leader, who tested positive for coronavirus and was hospitalized and released.

Since the early days of the crisis in New York, the church has broadcast Pastor Bernard’s popular Sunday services online.

Impact on funeral biz

The coronavirus impact and resulting fatalities are rocking the city’s funeral home industry, and one veteran of the business feels that the media are underplaying the frightening impact — and doing a disservice by not showing more of the grim severity of the situation.

The Brooklyn-based worker — who preferred to remain anonymous — said the number of coronavirus fatalities is straining the city’s funeral home industry.

Woman walks past grim, and shocking, view — refrigerated trucks used to store the growing overflow of dead bodies from coronavirus victims. The trucks, set up by city Medical Examiner’s office, are located on E. 30th St., near Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
Woman walks past grim, and shocking, view — refrigerated trucks used to store the growing overflow of dead bodies from coronavirus victims. The trucks, set up by city Medical Examiner’s office, are located on E. 30th St., near Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

Statewide so far, there have been more than 8,600 deaths, said Gov. Cuomo on Saturday. But, simply quoting numbers on the news does not clearly portray the vast number of caskets bearing virus victims and the severity of the situation.

The Brooklyn worker described abnormally long lines and waiting times to get into the city medical examiner’s office in Manhattan, and refrigerated trucks for bodies outside the medical examiner’s Brooklyn office near Kings County Hospital.

And some area cemeteries — citing social distancing and attempts to quell the spread of the virus — are restricting the number of people attending graveside services.

Employees deliver a body while wearing personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns at Daniel J. Schaefer Funeral Home in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Employees deliver a body while wearing personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns at Daniel J. Schaefer Funeral Home in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

Things have really gotten bad when death is your business and you’re shocked and overwhelmed by the scope of the coronavirus death toll in New York City.

The Brooklyn worker is moved by the situation, but she urges New Yorkers to take social distancing seriously, noting that simply being bored or having cabin fever are not good enough reasons to make other than essential trips.

To donate to the “Jamaica’s fight against COVID-19 campaign,” visit jatogetherwestand.com.