Posted on 2020-04-18
CHELSEA (CBS) — Boots are on the ground in Chelsea as the city with the highest infection rate in the Commonwealth remains deep in a crisis.
On Thursday, hundreds of people lined Chelsea Square and stopped by Highland Park for a chance to grab a week’s worth of food.
“I am picking up a box and then I’m picking up my sister-in-law. She has kids and I want her to come and grab some food too,” said Vania De La Rosa, a Chelsea teacher.
The humanitarian mission is part of the state’s emergency response. Officials say National Guard members will help distribute 1,000 boxes of food on weekdays.
Gov. Charlie Baker has also expanded testing and access to hotel rooms to isolate the sick. During Thursday’s briefing, Baker pushed back at critics who claim the state should’ve stepped in sooner.
“We all responded to [requests] within 24 hours of being asked by the city. And we’ve been in constant contact with city officials for four months, practically every day,” Baker said.
At least 39 people have died from the coronavirus in Chelsea, and the city has registered more than 700 cases. But officials fear the numbers are much higher.
“When you have a community that carries one of the largest industrial and environmental burdens and then we all get hit by a pandemic, we’re not all going to suffer in the same way,” said Maria Belen Power, an environmental justice organizer with GreenRoots.
Just a short drive north of Boston, Chelsea is home to roughly 45,000 people. It’s estimated 80% of its workforce holds service jobs.
“One hundred percent of the jet fuel used at Logan Airport is stored on the banks of the Chelsea Creek. Seventy to eighty percent of the region’s home heating fuel is also stored on the banks of the Chelsea Creek,” Power said.
The New England Produce Center is also located in Chelsea. The warehouse is the second largest distributor of fresh foods in the country.
Powers said the industrial footprint draws thousands of trucks into the city daily, drives up pollution and the rate of pre-existing conditions.
“You have some of the highest rates of upper respiratory illnesses in the city of Chelsea. Some of the highest rates of stroke, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension,” Power said. “All of these pre-existing conditions are precisely what make COVID-19 worst.”