BY DEAN MOSES
Demonstrators gathered at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights last week to advocate for more hospital beds in Queens, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in New York City.
For an hour on Friday, Oct. 9, activists held a vigil and called for “beds, not body bags” in Queens. The dozen protestors laid out several makeshift body bags stuffed with newspapers and water bottles, signifying those who died as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Activists hoped to call attention to the fact that, per capita, Queens has the lowest rate of hospital beds in the United States.
Leon Kirschner, a Jackson Heights resident and member of Rise and Resist Group, the group that organized the demonstration, explained that the low number of hospital beds is directly related to the borough’s mortality rate.
“The hospital beds are directly linked to the mortality rate,” Kirshner said.
According to the organizer, the reason for the disparity related to Medicaid funding.
“The reason that that happened is because of medicaid funding. Medicaid funding is very low,” Kirshner said. “Hospitals that don’t depend on Medicaid like those in the east side of Manhattan, that have gotten richer from insurance, while the hospitals that depend on Medicaid haven’t been able to pick up so they’ve closed or been taken over.”
He said that the Rise and Resist Group, formed in 2016 right after the President Donald Trump was elected, helped to organize the event and that the idea for the body bags was to create a visual that people can conceptualize.