On paper, Flushing and Corona, two bordering neighborhoods in Queens, are more alike than different.
Separated by two highways and
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the working-class neighborhoods have a large share of foreign-born residents. Corona is predominantly Latino, while Flushing is home to a large Asian community.
Both are high-density areas with similar socioeconomic profiles. They’re linked by the usually crowded No. 7 train.
Nearly half of workers in both neighborhoods are employed in food service, construction, cleaning and transportation — jobs that New York State has deemed essential through the pandemic.
Residents of both places typically have household income below the Queens median and a similar share of people who lack health insurance, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. And almost half of apartments and houses in both areas have more than one occupant per room, the Census definition of crowded.
Yet when it comes to COVID-19, the differences between the neighborhoods couldn’t be more stark.
Corona emerged as the early epicenter of the outbreak in New York City and shows no sign of slowing down. Meanwhile, the rate of test-confirmed positive cases of the virus among Flushing residents has remained among the lowest in the five boroughs.
The divergent impact of the virus in two similar neighborhoods suggests that low incomes and poor access to health care alone do not predicate the virus’s damage, public health experts say.
The divide between Corona and Flushing also highlights a striking possibility: that early measures many Flushing residents, workers and businesses took to protect themselves — during crucial weeks while city and state government held back — may have made a difference.
“I was very aware when the virus first started in China,” said a Flushing nurse, originally from China, who spoke with THE CITY on the condition of anonymity.
“I knew we’d be hit hard if America didn’t prepare,” she said.