By Kevin Deutsch and Sasha Gonzales
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Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced a pilot program he said would provide access to COVID-19 diagnostic testing for residents of eight city housing projects, as well as deliver enough face masks for every public housing resident in the five boroughs.
The Bronx sites for the new coronavirus testing program will be the Highbridge Gardens, Andrew Jackson, and Edenwald Houses, Cuomo said.
The state-run program will also facilitate the distribution of 500,000 cloth face masks to all NYCHA and other state public housing residents, as well as provide 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to project tenants, Cuomo said.
The announcement comes amid criticism of city and state government for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis in NYCHA developments, which house some of the city’s poorest residents.
The bodies of NYCHA tenants have routinely been found inside their Bronx apartments during the pandemic, as shortages of coronavirus tests and emergency medical treatment continue to devastate low-income communities, tenant advocates told Bronx Justice News.
Elderly and sick tenants in the borough’s long-neglected housing projects are dying in their residences each day, these advocates said, while some younger project tenants are also perishing at home amid the global crisis.
New Yorkers have been dying in their residences at about ten times the normal rate, city data shows. Causes of death have not been established for many, meaning they are not reflected in the city’s daily COVID-19 death totals.
The Bronx — home to New York City’s largest minority population, and the city’s poorest borough per capita — has been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, with infected residents roughly twice as likely to die here than those infected elsewhere in the city.
City data shows the virus ravaging communities of color, and the Bronx, with a population that is 84% black, Latino, or mixed race, is bearing the brunt of those disparities.
With roughly 70 NYCHA developments and properties scattered across the Bronx, workers from the city medical examiner’s office and funeral homes have at times been unable to keep pace with the number of corpses being discovered in tenants’ apartments, advocates said.
The Bronx is home to about 17 percent of city residents, but accounted for roughly 26 percent of all recorded coronavirus deaths citywide as of early April, data shows.