Hialeah in South Florida is fast emerging as a coronavirus hotspot with more confirmed cases than Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
The city, the state’s most Hispanic metropolis with a large senior citizen population, falls under Miami Dade – the county with the highest number of confirmed cases, 5,461, and highest death toll, 49.
It is also the place where hundreds of desperate Floridians lined up dangerously close to each other on Tuesday and Wednesday to get paper unemployment applications
Hialeah Councilman Jesus Tundidor told The Daily Beast: ‘I think it is going to get a lot worse.’
The city has seen cases skyrocket; on March 22 there were nine confirmed cases. By March 31, 243; April 5, 507 and by Wednesday, 597.
Public health law professor Lawrence Gostin said the city ‘is a very high risk area’ and called the situation there a ‘recipe for disaster’.
He said ‘you have a poor elderly community with a lot of preexisting conditions’, adding: ‘So when they become infected, they will more than likely require hospitalization and intensive care.’
People queue to receive the printed Unemployment Benefits application in the parking lot of Kennedy Library in Hialeah, Florida on Tuesday
Hialeah’s city worker delivers printed Unemployment Benefits applications in the parking lot of Kennedy Library in Hialeah on Tuesday
Former Florida ombudsman for elder affairs, Brian Lee, said: ‘The potential for terrible things to happen is unimaginable.’
On Tuesday and Wednesday hundreds of desperate Floridians were filmed lining up and risking COVID-19 exposure to get paper unemployment applications.
Footage obtained by Local10 shows people dangerously close to each other outside the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah as the state tries to fix online filing problems.
‘I have a printer, but I don’t have the cartridge’, one woman said Tuesday.
Another, Jessica Tellez, said she waited in line for three hours. She told the network: ‘My dad is old. He can’t come out. Everybody out here is risking their lives to get these applications.’
There are more than 15,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, 323 people have died as of Thursday.
The Sunshine State is expected to hit its peak in 14 days with an estimated 149 COVID-19 deaths in a 24 hour period.
Hundreds of residents lined up hours before locations were scheduled to open Tuesday across Hialeah, to submit paper applications for unemployment benefits as the state attempts to address problems with its website amid the increased number of applicants
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that their heavily criticized unemployment system should now be able to handle the crush of applicants it is receiving as workers lose their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that their heavily criticized unemployment system should now be able to handle the crush of applicants it is receiving as workers lose their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak.
He said the computer system’s capacity has been increased to handle 120,000 simultaneous connections, about double the peak usage in recent weeks, and by Tuesday 750 additional state employees will be trained to handle and process phone calls.
But footage from Tuesday in Hialeah shows as one police officer is surrounded by those in desperate need for the forms.
Private call centers are also being contracted to provide additional service. Last week, 3.8 million calls were made to the department, 50 per cent more than all of last year.
More than 520,000 Floridians have applied for unemployment since March 15, compared to 326,000 in all of last year.
Florida is expected to hit its peak in 14 days with an estimated 149 COVID-19 deaths
Hialeah in South Florida is fast emerging as a coronavirus hotspot with more confirmed cases than Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg. The city, the state’s most Hispanic metropolis with a large senior citizen population, falls under Miami Dade – the county with the highest number of confirmed cases, 5,461, and highest death toll, 49
‘We are in a position where people have lost their jobs, they are looking for relief and they were having a lot of difficulty,’ DeSantis said.
‘People were on this site and it was timing out. People would go hours and hours upon end and it was totally unacceptable’, he added, ‘You have a single mother who no longer has a job, who has to worry about how the rent is going to be paid, how food is going to be put on the table. We want this system to be accessible.’
But despite assurances that help was on its way, some confirmed they still weren’t getting it.
‘Nothing is fixed, but they can now put you on hold,’ said Jay Mendez in a text message he typed while on holding Monday afternoon — for nearly four hours, and counting.
He was laid off from his Miami accounting firm three weeks ago.
The Department of Economic Opportunity said it is working to expand online capacity with additional servers, even as it began accepting paper applications to accommodate more claims while getting staffing help from other state agencies.