New Jersey’s Hispanic senior community particularly hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff at the nonprofit group FOCUS are hard at work packing hundreds of hot meals and bags of supplies and loading them into vans to be delivered to some members of the Essex County community.
“Weekly it’s about 2,600,” says Maria Manangao, who leads the nonprofit’s Hispanic Senior Program.
But the virus has caused there to be some changes to protocols on how the county’s older residents are taken care of.
“We escorted them before to doctors, Social Security visits. Right now, what we’re doing is we’re trying to do conference calls. And we get the doctor on the phone and we translate,’ Manangao says.
As for the food deliveries – the first stop of the day is the Nevada Street Apartments in Newark – home to hundreds of senior citizens – people like Ruben Cardona and Ambrosina Quinones, who both volunteer to go outside and receive the deliveries so that the rest of their friends and neighbors don’t have to be exposed.
“I only leave my apartment building for doctors’ appointments,” Quinones says through a translator.
At 78 years old and with multiple heart surgeries, Quinones is part of the population most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Cardona, 89, is also at risk. He says that he has been tested for the virus and that the test came back negative.
But data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show just how much the elderly have been impacted by the virus. They are a higher risk of hospitalization and even death. The data also shows the members of the minority community are also at risk.
Those disproportionate rates are also reflected in New Jersey’s more-than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The rooms at FOCUS are empty of their senior guests because of these risks. Prior to the pandemic, many senior citizens would come to FOCUS to play games of dominoes or a round of pool
“They’re continuously wanting to come back,” Manangao says. “But at the same time, they’re scared to come back.”
Manangao says that the lack of socialization has been hard because the seniors enjoyed the one-on-one contact they used to get.