Coronavirus News: Data finds low income, minorities left homes at height of pandemic

NEW YORK (WABC) -- In minority and low-income neighborhoods throughout New York City, the 7 On Your Side Investigates data team found individuals were leaving their homes, likely for work, at a higher rate than other wealthier neighborhoods throughout March and April during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The data from a company called Safegraph allowed our data team to analyze devices that appeared to stay in one location at night and move to another location for an extended period of time the following day, indicating those individuals were commuting to a full-time or part-time job.



Many of those same minority and low-income neighborhoods with a higher rate of people continuing to leave their homes during the height of the pandemic, are the same neighborhoods in which New York City has reported higher rates of death.

Medical experts have suggested a variety of reasons Coronavirus has tended to impact low-income and minority communities at higher rates including underlying health conditions, lifestyle, and access to quality medical care.

This data seems to indicate exposure could have also been a large factor.

While New Yorkers were told to shelter in place, these individuals described as essential workers kept leaving their homes, often commuting by public transit, exposing themselves to the risk of the virus and bringing that risk back home to their communities.

Doctors have repeatedly said limiting exposure is key to stopping the spread of the COVID-19.

The data shows people in 88% of low-income neighborhoods and 84% of largely minority neighborhoods continued to work outside of the home at a rate higher than the citywide average, which showed about 8% of people leaving their homes on a regular basis, likely for work. These neighborhoods were largely in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and parts of Queens.

"We state during COVID-19, you are going to put our broccoli on our shelves in supermarkets, you are going to drive our trains and when we call Uber Eats, you are going to deliver it," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has called for a Civil Rights investigation into the disparities in New York City amid the virus. "We basically put a substantial number of New Yorkers who happen to be black and brown and poor in a dangerous environment, and I am really angry about that."

7 On Your Side Investigates visited a neighborhood in the Bronx near the 170th Street subway stop during the evening rush that showed a higher percentage of people leaving their homes during the pandemic.

We met Claudia Pineda, who works as a chef at a senior residential center. She told us that she carries a bag with clothes and shoes. She changes when she arrives to work and changes again when she leaves work, then changes again when she gets home before telling her children hello.

"I'm trying to protect myself and my family too," Claudia Pineda said.

Cesar Caranza told us he did get sick and got better. He said he returned to work because he has no other choice. He has a young son at home.

"It's scary because it's still out there," Caranza said. "But you have to do what you have to do."

We met Bershar Edwards coming home from his job as a doorman and porter in a luxury building.

"I did have a friend pass recently," Edwards said. "I worry about my family a lot because I am going in and out. We don't even know when it will be done."

We also met Mark Sanchez who's a building custodian.

"It's the stress of having to leave your house to go to work," Sanchez said, who described both his mom and sister as high risk for catching the virus. "I'm fortunate that I can still work but it's just having to take the gamble because you really don't know. It's frustrating."

In one evening in the Bronx, we also met nurses and delivery workers who preferred not to talk on camera.

Most of the individuals were commuting by train to perform tasks now deemed essential by the city but often that offer very little pay and leave them making well below the median wage in New York City.

Their stories support the data which seems to indicate some communities had a better chance than others at limiting exposure to the virus in their homes.
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