These Two New York City Churches Lost a Hundred Members to COVID May 17, 2020

These Two New York City Churches Lost a Hundred Members to COVID

According to a beautifully reported and photographed article on CNN’s website,

New York’s Latino population has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus. As of May 6, more than 5,200 Latinos in New York City have died of Covid-19, a higher death toll than any other racial or ethnic group.

The worshipers at a Roman Catholic church in Queens and a Lutheran church in Manhattan are living that horror story right now. Between them, they’ve lost more than a hundred people.

Bishop Paul Egensteiner, who was elected to lead the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Metropolitan New York Synod last year, said many majority-Latino congregations in the city are being devastated by COVID-19. In some, pastors report that 25-30% of the congregation is infected, he said.

The bishop told CNN he’s angered by Americans who argue the pandemic has been overhyped. “You have to be in a very privileged place to be able to say that,” Egensteiner said. “You either have blinders on, or it’s an acute lack of awareness of how this virus is devastating communities.”

Over at St. Peter’s in Manhattan, the Reverend Fabian Arias provided CNN with a tally of the dead.

[T]he single-spaced list is so long that it stretches onto a second page. The grim ritual of reading the names out loud has become as much a part of the church’s biweekly Spanish Mass as reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

As far as we know, neither of these churches disregarded the state’s and city’s shelter-in-place health directive, so that’s not where the majority of the deceased got infected. Explained Frankie Miranda, president of the Hispanic Federation,

“We are dying at a higher rate because we have no other choice. These are the delivery food people, the people that are the day workers, the farm workers, these are people that are working in restaurants. They are essential services, and now they are not enjoying the protections that maybe in other industries people can have.” …

Church officials say that immigrant workers often live in crowded conditions, making it easier for contagion to spread through the close networks.

Among the Hispanic workers, a certain disregard for their own safety (and that of others) can be a factor too.

As Arias heads to a funeral, he hands out protective masks to men passing by. “When I go in the street and I see people in my community that don’t protect themselves, it troubles me a lot,” he says.

Egensteiner said sorrowfully that the full impact of the losses hasn’t even hit home yet.

“When they’re able to gather again, congregation members are going to be shocked at who’s missing.”

According to the New York Times numbers provided on Saturday night, the city has recorded a minimum of 196,481 coronavirus cases, and 20,071 deaths.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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