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Miami's Coronavirus Surge Team Provides Residents With Masks, Gloves And Information

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As cases of COVID-19 spike in Florida, one local government is sending teams door to door to bring supplies and information to residents. Danny Rivero of member station WLRN recently followed one of these teams in Miami.

DANNY RIVERO, BYLINE: Cathy Burgos has a dozen blue bags hanging from her arm as she walks the hot streets of Miami's Allapattah neighborhood. It's a working-class, Spanish-speaking part of town with a large Dominican population.

CATHY BURGOS: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERO: She stops a mom walking with her baby and gives her two bags of supplies. Inside are face masks, gloves and information about where to get tested for COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

BURGOS: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

BURGOS: So every day we're hitting at least 70 homes. I know today we have a lot more homes to hit - around 140, I believe.

RIVERO: Burgos works with the Juvenile Services Department of Miami-Dade County. But now her role has changed as Florida's most populous county responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

BURGOS: And the good thing is that within the bags, you have cloth masks that - they can continually use them.

Buenos dias.

RIVERO: Three areas in Miami-Dade County are being targeted with these kind of operations. This is the top hot spot in Florida for cases of COVID-19, and these neighborhoods are the worst-hit. Some rural hospitals in Florida have run out of capacity in their ICUs. The local government here hopes these door-to-door efforts will prevent that from happening in the Miami area.

PATRICIO PINEDA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERO: Patricio Pineda is happy to get a few masks of supplies for his family. He's a mechanic and says his masks keep getting too dirty to wear. He says now he'll use one mask to work with and another one when he's off.

PINEDA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERO: Andres Cantey says almost everyone here knows someone who's been infected. He's a 27-year-old baker who lives with his mom and sister. He works six days a week and says the coronavirus is taking an emotional toll.

ANDRES CANTEY: It's a little frightening, not going to lie. It's a little frightening. People keep saying it doesn't affect people my age, but I've seen the numbers. I've seen people my age being affected. And it's a responsibility thing. And it just feels like people are just being careless. And...

MILAGROS CECILIA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERO: A few doors down, Milagros Cecilia says almost her whole family has tested positive. She just tested positive and hasn't left home since. I talked to her through a fence from about 15 feet away.

CECILIA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERO: She says another neighbor who tested positive hasn't stopped leaving the house, and he needs to be educated.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

BURGOS: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERO: Kathy Burgos with the county knocks on doors, avoids dogs and just generally chats people up. She gives them pop quizzes about how to stay safe and corrects them if they're wrong.

BURGOS: There was a gentleman that was really, really informed, but his mask was under his nose. So I think that it's not only important to give - right? - the supplies but to also know that they know how to use it.

RIVERO: The most important resource for fighting the coronavirus, she says, is accurate information.

For NPR News, I'm Danny Rivero in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.