(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – New York City Congresswoman Yvette Clarke yesterday shared the fear being felt within the Caribbean community as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to ravage that American city.
“It is really a struggle. We have lost many lives. It’s a real burden, a real hardship, a real fear and crisis in the Caribbean community like in many others,” she told Richard “Richie B” Burgess on his Top of the Morning show on The Edge 105 FM, Jamaica’s newest radio station, which is a sister media house to the Jamaica Observer.
“Our system is really being overwhelmed. So many people have succumbed to this virus; there is no system in a city such as New York that can handle this level of deceased [people],” she stated.
Clarke said she was aware of the Caribbean community’s efforts to deal with the effects of the virus, which include the laying off of some workers, with children home from closed schools and people sheltering together.
She also noted that many Caribbean people living in New York are entrepreneurs whose businesses have been shut down as a result of the virus and its spread.
Clarke, who has Jamaican heritage, also called on Jamaicans to heed the call of Prime Minister Andrew Holness to stay at home and adhere to social distancing as the island tries to prevent further spread of the virus.
“I have been aware of the prime minister’s speeches and his speaking to the nation about how important it is for them to stay at home, and to try as best as possible to adhere to social distancing. It is very similar to what we are doing in the United States and what has been happening globally,” Clarke said.
“Jamaica is not immune, and so I am hoping that everyone who has heard his call will adhere to what he is saying. This pandemic is deadly. And again, in a nation like Jamaica, where you don’t have a fully fleshed-out healthcare infrastructure, the instructions can mean the difference between life and death,” she warned.
“I am a Jamaican-American. I am a proud Jamerican and so I am very concerned that the nation keeps itself safe, that we stop and arrest any spread of the virus on my beautiful island nation. I am here in the epicentre in New York City and it is very disheartening to see just the viciousness with which this virus has attacked New Yorkers and people across the United States,” she added.
Asked whether she believes the US is entering its most challenging week of the coronavirus episode, Clarke said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday indicated a slowing down of the number of cases entering hospitals.
She said she was hoping that was really the case, because COVID-19 has taken a toll on New Yorkers, with tremendous loss of life as well as all the anxieties which accompany the shutting down of the economy.
Yesterday, Cuomo announced that a record 731 people had succumbed to the pandemic on Monday, spiking the state’s death toll to 5,489.
The previous 24-hour high was 630, set on Friday.
COVID-19 has killed more than 11,000 people in the United States, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.
But Cuomo said New York appeared be nearing the peak of its pandemic, with a three-day average of hospitalisations down.
Clarke, a frequent visitor to Jamaica where she has a number of relatives, was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn and is the daughter of former New York City councilwoman Una Clarke and her husband Lesley, who are both immigrants from Jamaica.
Before entering politics the younger Clarke worked as a childcare specialist and trained community residents to care for the children of working parents.
Brooklyn’s 40th council district elected her to the New York City Council in 2001, succeeding her mother, who had held the council seat for more than a decade, eventually making theirs the first mother-to-daughter succession in the council.
She was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2006, with 89 per cent of the vote, running against Republican Stephen Finger.
Clarke is vice-chair of Congress’s powerful Energy and Commerce Committee and a member of the Homeland Security Committee. She has been a member of the Congressional Black Caucus since going to Congress in 2007, and today chairs its Immigration Task Force, while being an active member of its Census 2020 Task Force.