Fearful glances from masked faces. Shuttered storefronts and silent bars. As confirmed cases of coronavirus infections have risen over 11,000 in New York City and its suburbs, the city that never sleeps has taken on an eerie gloom.
Social distancing and government orders restricting mass gatherings to stem the spread of the aggressive respiratory disease have emptied major tourist attractions and left retail promenades dark, especially punishing retailers and business owners who rely on foot traffic to stay afloat.
Along those lonesome sidewalks homeless New Yorkers remain, unprotected from the elements and a disease that passes swiftly between people often without any sign or symptom.
In this vast sea of need, Felix and Virna Guzman insist on doing their part, one bag of hand sanitizing wipes and pair of gloves at a time.
“I'm working every day in the city because I'm working in the elevator construction,” said Guzman, 52, a native of Ecuador, on a cold Saturday morning in midtown. “I saw so many homeless. So that's why I came home to my house and I told my wife, ‘Listen, why don’t we do this? We have a lot of extra paper towels. We have extra gloves. We have extra wipes.”
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For nearly two weeks the couple has traveled an hour south from their home in Buchanan, New York, to deliver supplies to those in need. The couple sees the effort as honoring their good fortune in life.
“I always think about my kids,” said Virna Munoz-Guzman, 52, originally from Peru, who works in a supermarket upstate. “I think that maybe one day my kids might need something and somebody else will come and give it to them.”
Despite requests that people remain at home, Guzman insists he and his wife take every precaution against contraction.
“Before we come into the house, we leave everything out, all clothes, shoes, and everything,” said Guzman. “We almost come into the house naked. We go straight into the shower.”
As a shutdown of all non-essential personnel looms over the city, the Guzman’s wish to continue helping if the government would offer them a way.
“I've never volunteered, just in my church in Buchanan,” Guzman said. “But before for the government, I don't do anything before. If they request me, if they want to me help them now, yes, I can do it.”
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.