CHELSEA, Mass. — The coronavirus pandemic is taking a hefty and unprecedented toll on Massachusetts’ smallest city of Chelsea.
The 2 square-mile city has the state’s highest rate of coronavirus infections, and most of its impoverished residents who earn a living from the service industry are unemployed because of the ongoing shut down.
The crisis is real and immediate for most residents, many of whom live in the country illegally and do not qualify for unemployment or other assistance.
This has forced social organizer Gladys Vega and her nonprofit group, the Chelsea Collaborative, to set up a twice-a-week pop up food pantry for city in which more than 60 percent of its population identifies as Latino.
The organization also deliver food aid to families on quarantine as they deal with active coronavirus infections.
Official state data shows Chelsea residents contend with more than 1,890 infections per every 100,000 people – the highest rate in Massachusetts.
During a recent food distribution, the line stretched around the block as more people showed up even as others left with boxes laden with grain, cereal, milk, vegetables, fruits eggs and even diapers for their families.
Vegas says she realizes that everyone in her organization is risking their lives by stepping up to help the needy in their community.
She calls her staff for prayers and a quick word of caution before they step out to hand out boxes of food and other supplies to residents that, she says, include undiagnosed carriers.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.
For some, especially older adults and people with underlying health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Worldwide, the outbreak has infected more than 2.4 million people and killed over 165,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally based on figures supplied by government health authorities around the globe, though it has becoming increasingly clear that the true numbers are much higher.