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NYCHA Residents Accounted For Disproportionate Number Of COVID Deaths From March 2020 To June 2021

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Newly released COVID-19 data shows troubling numbers for residents of the New York City Housing Authority.

As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported Wednesday, some city leaders say the increased death rates are a wake-up call.

The latest statistics from city public health officials include bombshell numbers about our neighbors who live in communities run by NYCHA.

Of COVID deaths recorded from March 2020 through this past June, NYCHA residents represented 7%, even though the population represents 4% of the total city population.

"It really should shock us to do even more to act on behalf of NYCHA residents," City Councilman Mark Levine said.


Levine, who chairs the Health Committee, said this has been a story of the pandemic from the get go.

"Disproportionate rates of fatalities in African-American and Latino communities. That is the most devastating form of inequality. People's lives have been lost," Levine said.

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A Department of Health spokesman released a statement that says, in part, "Transparency is a cornerstone of the response. Helping all of us understand the scope of loss is a critical component of our recovery."

The number of overall COVID cases among NYCHA residents, not deaths, was more on par with the citywide average -- 13% NYCHA as opposed to 12% of residents citywide.

But, some who live on NYCHA properties are surprised the death rate is almost twice as bad.

"The percentage rate for New York City, it's low, and Manhattan is supposed to be one of the lowest, so I'm surprised that this is going on in the place that I live," Morningside Heights resident Gretchel Hill said.

The Johnson Houses in Harlem has been one of the harder hit communities in the pandemic. At least 12 residents died from COVID at its height.

"We've lost a lot of people here in this development from the COVID," resident Charlena Davis said.

Watch Dave Carlin's report -- 

Public housing communities are home to many elderly residents and others who are considered especially vulnerable to getting sick with COVID, Carlin reported.

"COVID's shining a light on health care disparities. We've known they've been existing and now we're seeing it with the disproportionate death rates in African Americans, Afro-Latinos and people in inner city areas," Dr. Daniel LaRoche, president of Advanced Eyecare of New York, said.

LaRoche told CBS2's Ali Bauman the prevalence of pre-existing conditions in communities of color, now mixed with vaccine hesitancy, may be to blame. He's been trying to combat vaccine mistrust with his own patients in Harlem.

"NYCHA residents have suffered often from lack of access to adequate health care," Levine said. "We have to continue to improve access to make vaccination available. Testing resources easily available. We have to surge education and outreach efforts."


"They should be making sure people get the vaccine," Davis said.

"I'm a diabetic, so I didn't really wanna be vaccinated, but I didn't wanna get corona," Johnson Houses resident Oscar Ayala said.

"Getting the vaccine is the most important thing you can do," LaRoche said.

"We got to start looking out for each other and being more, you know, aware," another Morningside Heights resident added.

To get death rates way down across the board.

A NYCHA spokesman told CBS2 it's followed health guidance from day one to keep buildings and residents as safe as possible.

CBS2's Dave Carlin contributed to this report.

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