By Todd Maisel
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is feeling fine, though not tested for COVID-19. But not his sister who tested positive and has been fighting the virus for 10 days. His niece also has symptoms.
He has staff workers positive; a friend’s daughter is sick. He had a grandmother pass away from “non-COVID-19” cause, but “you really can’t say good-bye.”
“This virus doesn’t discriminate and is pervasive – prime ministers, princes, multi-millionaires and people of poverty,” Diaz sighed. “My job is to coordinate city, state and federal elected officials to get the resources we need and make sure the Bronx is not forgotten in the chaos and complexity of it all.”
So Diaz has been in conference calls with Dr. Katz and Health and Hospitals to make sure the public hospitals as Jacobi, North Central Bronx and many others get the attention they need including PPE’s and have the necessary front line doctors and nurses. He is also coordinating set-ups of drive-thru testing sites as many Bronx residents are still dealing with symptoms, but haven’t been tested. He said drive-thru testing will not be at Montefiore, Bay Plaza Mall.
Some officials have said the Bronx has been hit particularly hard, and some are wondering whether there are disparities based on race in the Bronx, a borough with a lack of healthcare for the working class and poor. Some officials believe people who get sick with COVID-19 are more likely to die in the Bronx than other boroughs.
He said the hospital system in the Bronx is “outdated” and then ‘certain boroughs get sicker.” He said more testing is needed to confirm whether the COVID-19 is more wide-spread. He said the hospitals in the Bronx are “bursting at the seams,” and it’s “mind-boggling and heart-wrenching.” He said many people have reached out to his office for testing, and they continue to work towards establishing more drive-thru sites.
A new field hospital is also being created to deal with the overflow by the Army Corps of Engineers in Hunts Point, and a hospital will be created at Westchester Square Hospital.
He is also working with Fresh Direct and borough presidents from the other five boroughs to distribute 500 grocery boxes to those in need of food as a result of the economic downturn and record unemployment that amounts to more than 6 million nation-wide. And he is working with Borough President Eric Adams who has gotten masks to be distributed to people in the five boroughs.
On economic issues, Diaz said is working with community businesses to make loans to small business to pay their rents, $25,000-100,000 for up to two years with zero interest. He said this is the heart of the Bronx to keep these businesses alive.
“We went as low as 5 percent unemployement – we were 14.2 percent when I took over,” Diaz said. “Now, the economy has pneumonia and we are trying the best things we can and we are getting out of the way of experts because this is unlike any crisis we have ever faced. Here we are without a blueprint, nobody experienced anything like this so we are making due with what have.”
“I’m proud of governor and city for their focus on efforts to help people in this time of need,” Diaz said, adding to the public, “Please, let’s not spread this virus, so stay the hell at home.”
Here is the Bronx webpage: bronxboropres.nyc.gov/health-human-services/coronavirus.
This story first appeared on amNY.com