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As New York City Gears Up To Reopen, Some Communities Are Still Struggling And Say They're Not Ready

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City is just weeks away from fully reopening, but there are communities saying they're not ready.

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez recently spent time with families in Corona, Queens who said their recovery is still far from reach.

As the city rebounds from the COVID pandemic, Manhattan's streets bustling on the road to recovery, a stressful struggle to survive goes on in Corona.

Nusta Gonzales, 20, and her mother spend countless hours on the streets, selling whatever they can to support their family of six.


"We started by selling waters and sodas," she said. "It was tough, because the landlords were like putting pressure on us like, you gotta pay rent."

And the pressure is coming from all directions in Corona Plaza, where the Gonzaleses have set up shop. The once-quiet plaza, pre-pandemic, is now packed with new vendors competing for customers. Many of them lost their jobs as businesses shuttered.

Fernando Lopez worked construction, but now sells masks to make ends meet.

"Now, it's slow. Maybe next month, more," he said.

Financial struggles have led to widespread food insecurity. Every Saturday, First Baptist Church in neighboring East Elmhurst opens its food pantry, at one point feeding more than 2,000 families a week.

Pastor Patrick Young said city resources aren't meeting the area's need.

"It's night and day, you know what I mean? Because we were the last to get major attention, but the first with the major epidemic," Young said.

Corona was the epicenter of the virus when the pandemic began. City data shows 1 in 9 people in Corona have been diagnosed with COVID-19. One in 209 have died of the virus -- a higher rate of cases and deaths than all the five boroughs combined. Yet it was only this month that a mobile vaccination bus was posted in Corona Plaza.


"We need to start prioritizing the distribution of vaccinations by zip code.  So if the zip codes that are most affected by COVID, they should have the preference to be the first ones to get it. It's a logical thing for us to do in order to help communities like this get back on its feet," said New York City Councilman Francisco Moya.

First Baptist Church also serves as an occasional vaccination site. More than 60% of the population in East Elmhurst, and more than 50% in Corona has received at least one dose. But there are still a lot of people that are hesitant to get vaccinated.

"We're still thinking about it because we're a little scared for it," one person said.

Others, like Antonia Guitierrez -- nearly widowed after her husband had COVID -- simply can't afford to leave their stand to get vaccinated.

Gonzales says the vaccination bus could make the difference for a lot of people.

"It's not over," Gonzales said.

The road to recovery is still very long.

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