The Bronx may not be the capital of the world, but it’s a focal point of the current “zoonotic” outbreak. On the first Friday of every month, members of the west Bronx community—located just north of the Bronx Zoo—stroll into what’s known as Flushing Meadows Corona Park for their monthly Farmers Market.
Signs around the outdoor food hall listed three reasons why farmers weren’t allowed in: the past two outbreaks have shut down all of the park’s parks in the borough.
This is the Bronx, so thinking about going to a farmers market these days is a bit like planning a family trip to the Hamptons: It’s considered a particularly good idea to do so when you’re also relatively covered by healthcare.
High levels of Coronavirus prevalence have correlated with high infection rates in the Bronx
The Bronx is also a hotbed of walking and biking, and is home to the only northern-facing mountain ski slope in the New York metro area. It’s the type of urban environment that patients and bystanders will often encounter.
Coronavirus-related pathogen data collection for most hospitals across New York and New Jersey has revealed that infected patients have a high rate of social isolation. Hospital admissions spike in cases where there is more of a risk for contact with sick individuals.
Unsurprisingly, people who know or have been in contact with someone who is ill are a high risk. Here in the Bronx, the people with the most to lose from an illness that can kill within a week if not treated quickly are homeless, youth, individuals who live in the projects, and even a handful of regular visitors to the park.
Organic certification agents at the Bronx River Greenmarket have noticed the change.
“We’ve seen some changes in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, of organizations and companies taking greater control over who could enter the property,” says Andrew Long, director of Organic Certification for Organic Marketer EXERT. “The park has become more difficult to get into for all types of parties.”
This isn’t necessarily good news for those looking to buy fresh goods. Long says organic market participants have to be proactive about communicating with the vendors, often by setting up meetings to discuss issues of security with them ahead of time.
The New York City Parks Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The outbreak outbreak also has a significant effect on the city’s most valuable resource—its green spaces. Many of these open spaces are in central areas that don’t easily connect to other attractions of the city. Visitors to the Bronx’s Flushing Meadows Corona Park, for example, have no option but to catch the train or bus to the Bronx Zoo or Lincoln Center, Manhattan’s main performing arts complex.
“On some parts of our parks where access is being temporarily shut down, we are discouraging visitors from using transit and are letting our parks staff know to educate visitors about their options,” says NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Field Operations Dermot Shea. “We’re asking all park visitors to respect the sanitary measures being taken and any legitimate need for park access, such as the Farmers Market.”
No one has to go far to avoid a fight between humans and a pathogen. Whether you go on an adventure of a lifetime, take a walk in nature or eat fresh fruits and vegetables, you run the risk of being in the crosshairs of what’s been dubbed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the “nightmare scenario.”