(NEW YORK) — The global impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the racial disparities in the United States for African-Americans and Hispanics. 

When states imposed stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of coronavirus, only businesses deemed essential could remain open, putting those employees at a higher risk of getting infected. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly 25% of the service industry compared to just 16% by their white counterparts.

All 50 states across the U.S. have begun to slowly reopen their economies and in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has begun to ease restrictions regionally. But, New York City has not yet met the criteria to enter phase one of his ‘NY Forward’ plan, leaving businesses considered non-essential like local shop Bronx Native, founded by Amaurys Grullon, closed.

Grullon is a Dominican-American from the Bronx who has felt the effects of the virus both on his business, and in his personal life, starting a GoFund me to help keep the shop alive “We made about 50% of our goal. We made about a little over $10,000 right now. And the community really showed up,” Grullon said on the “Perspective” podcast as part of ABC News’ special coverage, Pandemic: A Nation Divided, examining the socioeconomic and racial disparities of the pandemic.”

Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from the Perspective podcast.

The novel coronavirus has done more than threaten Grullon’s business, it took the life of his father. “It really hit home, it’s really shifted the way I think,” he said. “I was just going to that internally while everything was going on, trying to help Bronx Native. We weren’t able to go visit him, I think that was somewhat hard for me because that was pretty sad.” 

Bronx Native Brand Manager Josue Caceres is a coronavirus survivor. “It was a scary and intense experience. I’m grateful for going through that because it gave me a different view and a different understanding of the things around me and the people around me, and myself.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week the NYPD will no longer enforce the use of masks. According to data released by the Police department, of the nearly 400 summonses handed out to people from March 16th through May 5th, more than 80% of them were black or hispanic. Viral violent encounters between police and citizens also prompted the move. 

Bronx Native now sells masks and Caceres says the shop is doing what it can to help “ A lot of people look to us you know, to see what’s going on in the Bronx or what they should be doing. We try to promote it as much as we can, like the use of masks.”  Grullon added, “Even ways to connect with other organizations so we can be able to give out masks to first responders or to families that maybe don’t have masks.”

The Bronx has accounted for more than 3,400 confirmed deaths due to coronavirus, and the highest number of cases, hospitalizations, and death per 100,000 people, more than any other borough.  But Grullon urges unity, “We will continue to fight. Let’s keep our heads up. We’re going to come out stronger, better, smarter as a human race. Let’s continue to stick together as a community and the Bronx will rise again. We got this.”

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