By Jessica Easthope
The city-wide COVID-19 infection rate in New York is around one percent, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn it’s nearly seven percent.
“We do have one of the biggest majorities of undocumented immigrants in the city, so I think this goes to show the lack of resources and medical attention these people can afford and receive,” said Daniela Alba, a parish secretary at St. Michael’s Church in Sunset Park.
Recently 3,300 people in Sunset Park were tested, 228 were positive. The city says the cause of the spike is a mystery, but Daniela says she thinks the community’s Latin culture is playing a role.
“We come from a culture when a lot of people want to be out and about for the summer. We hope that everyone understands, you can take the risk but the consequences are going to be dire because of the lack of resources, income and lack of awareness that exists in this community unfortunately,” said Daniela.
The virus has hit immigrant-rich communities in New York City the hardest. New spikes are also being seen in the Rockaways, Queens and in the Bronx. According to the latest data from the New York City Department of Health, Hispanics outnumber all other ethnicities in overall coronavirus cases and deaths.
St. Michael’s requires parishioners to socially distance, wear a mask and have their temperatures taken before coming in.
Father Fulgencio Gutierrez, the new pastor of St. Michael’s, says the church is doing everything it can to keep parishioners safe, but once they leave, it’s up to them.
“Maybe they’re not following the guidelines and the norms, social distancing, and I hope the people get it,” said Fr. Fulgencio.
The pandemic has wounded the physical and financial well-being of the undocumented community. Daniela says St. Michael’s is connecting as many parishioners as possible with community resources.
“Really and truly what our aim is is to do what Jesus Christ did to help the poor, the lowly the ones most in need and that’s what we’re called to do at all times and especially now during this pandemic, during this uptick and for the people of Sunset Park,” said Daniela.
The city is knocking on doors, posting flyers and making calls in Sunset Park. Fr. Fulgencio says faith will help the community make it through.
“We believe that God is with us, that Jesus is walking with us through the storm that we’re not alone,” Fr. Fulgencio said. “We will conquer it and cross the storm victorious.”