Coronavirus, New York

Haitian community leaders form task force to address coronavirus crisis

By Sam Bojarski

Coronavirus has hit close to home for Dr. Sophia Lubin, an OB-GYN physician at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, like it has for so many New Yorkers. 

“I have family members who have been affected myself and even had to end up in the hospital because of it,” Lubin told the Haitian Times. 

Seeing the need to educate and serve those most impacted, members of the Haitian-American Alliance of New York (HAA) have assembled a coalition of medical professionals, nonprofits, businesses, churches and volunteers. The newly formed Haitian-American COVID-19 Task Force includes active and retired physicians in multiple fields of medicine who will serve as a resource to Haitian-Americans, as well as the community at large. 

The demands of caring for a sick loved one, in many ways, are particularly challenging in a culture where multi-general, communal living arrangements are the norm. 

“Culturally, if someone is sick, it’s like, everybody wants to come to that person’s aid and really take care of them,” said Lubin. “With the coronavirus the (sick) person is basically supposed to be isolated.” 

Lubin, 42, lives in a household in Queens that includes her parents and two children. To limit the chances of spreading the virus, she said her family is using cell phones to communicate with each other, even while under the same roof. The virus has already hospitalized her uncle and impacted several of her patients, both during and after their pregnancies. 

“I think it’s wreaking havoc, the same way that it is in the rest of the city,” Lubin said about the impact of coronavirus on the Haitian community. 

Central Brooklyn, the epicenter of New York’s Haitian community, has been hit particularly hard. Data released by the New York City Department of Health shows that over 51% of patients in Flatbush and East Flatbush who were tested for coronavirus received positive results. This share of positive test results was among the highest across all Brooklyn neighborhoods.  

According to Yolette Williams, HAA president and chief coordinator of the coronavirus task force, health crises of this scale often disproportionately impact poor, bilingual communities of color. 

“It’s a health crisis, but the impact is huge, a lot of people have lost their jobs, there’s a lot of anxiety,” said Williams. 

Lower income residents are more vulnerable to economic consequences like job loss and may struggle to cover medical expenses. 

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Sam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski

Sam Bojarski has been covering Haiti and its diaspora for The Haitian Times since 2018. He is currently covering New York's Haitian community as a Report for America corps member.
Sam Bojarski
Mar. 30, 2020