New Rochelle agenda
The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
New Rochelle, about 30 minutes from Manhattan by car to the northeast, is one of the oldest cities in the state of New York. When the Edict of Nantes protecting French Protestants of Huguenots was revoked in 1685, refugees left the city of La Rochelle in western France to avoid religious persecution and settled here. The 1912 film Jekyll and Hyde was filmed here.
On March 10, 2020, more than 100 of the 170 positive cases of Covid-19 in the state of New York occurred in New Rochelle. A lawyer in his 50s who attended a synagogue downtown was identified as a super spreader. The first lockdown measure was ordered in the United States on public facilities in a radius of 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from the synagogue, including schools and churches. It was the prelude to the coronavirus disaster in New York.
I visited New Rochelle after a year, and the city was still deeply haunted by the coronavirus. Many of the stores near the city hall were closed. Small business owner Laurie Sherrington said that 50 to 60 percent of the local economy was directly hit. He was hopeful that with vaccination, things were gradually improving, and while it would take time, things will be normal again.
More than 8 million New York residents have been vaccinated at least once. That’s four in 10. Nearly 30 percent have completed vaccination. Since April 1, covid testing and isolation requirements for visitors have been lifted, except for overseas entry. As many as 80,000 New York City workers will stop working from home and return to the office. These are symbolic measures showing confidence in overcoming the pandemic.
But on the otherside, New York lies in darkness. The scene of a black man racially abusing and kicking an Asian woman in her 60s to the ground was shocking. It is painful to see building security guards watching the violence and ignoring it. Disturbing news continues since four Korean American women were killed in the Atlanta shooting.
March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and Pope Francis said racial discrimination was like a virus lurking in wait. Racism is mutating and tormenting communities around the world. The authorities are on alert due to a series of hate crimes against Asians. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio denounced the acts as disgusting and frightening and declared strict responses.
New Rochelle issued four agendas for racial justice and is to have high-level civil servants get anti-racism training. They have realized that they can never afford to be off guard about the virus. The key is execution and the empathy of the community.