In pandemic-stricken Miami, health workers deliver masks in person

In a meticulous, home-by-home operation, Miami city workers are knocking on doors in COVID-19 hotspots to deliver face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer — and instructing people on how to properly use the gear.

“Hello!” one of the health care workers cries out in Spanish as her team of six visits Allapattah, a working-class neighborhood located between the Miami airport and wealthy seaside homes.

“We have masks!” she says, urging people to come to the door.

Rafael Asencio, 71, a former construction worker born in the Dominican Republic, greets the team at the door of his humble home.

“Are you taking care of yourself? Where is your mask?” asks Cathy Burgos, the outreach team leader.

The workers hand out bags with face masks, surgical gloves, bottles of hand sanitizer and an information brochure in English and Spanish.

Burgos makes sure that Asencio can properly put on his mask.

“So tell me, what other preventive measures can you take?” she asks.

“I wash my hands,” he answers.

Asencio told AFP that he did not know where to get free supplies and was thankful that the team knocked on his door.

Few Allapattah residents can work online from home, and since they are often out working, the neighborhood has become one of Miami’s virus hotspots.

– Record numbers in Florida –

In the past weeks, Florida has been registering thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day.

On Tuesday alone there were 6,000, the fourth-highest since the crisis began — yet considerably lower than the record, 9,585, set on June 27.

Following the shocking spike in cases, officials in Miami County, Florida’s most populous region, began to dispatch virus outreach teams.

“Everyone has been very receptive,” Burgos told AFP. “When we hand them masks and gloves, I want to see them wear them, to know that they understand their proper use.”

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has refused to impose statewide orders to wear face masks, so each city and county has their own rules.

Skeptics, especially among political conservatives, claim that wearing masks infringes on their personal liberties.

But as the number of virus cases soar, criticism over inaction is mounting and splits have emerged among Republicans — most dramatically on Monday when the mayor of Jacksonville, where President Donald Trump in August is set to accept his party’s nomination for a second term in office, made wearing masks in public mandatory.

by Leila MACOR