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Courtesy of James Johnson
Community organizer James Johnson warns his peers that COVID-19 can strike them too if they don't act more responsibly.

A Cambria Heights community organizer is sounding the COVID-19 alarm to Millennials and Generation Z across southeast Queens.

James Johnson, 29, is urging the young people in the community to take the pandemic seriously as he himself suffers from the virus in quarantine.

“These young simply don’t realize how important it is to stay at home,” Johnson said. “People are home from college and they’re going to parties every night and they have to understand how serious this is. They might be bringing the virus home to their parents and maybe even their grandparents.”

Johnson, the founder of Opportunities for Southeast Queens Millenials, began feeling the symptoms of coronavirus on March 16 but he listened to Mayor Bill de Blasio say that those with flu-like symptoms should stay home.

“By March 25, I couldn’t breathe. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get tested at Jamaica Hospital because it was already overrun so I drove myself to Long Island Jewish in Valley Stream, Long Island, to get tested at 4 a.m.,” Johnson said. “There simply are not enough testing sites for the people of southeast Queens. It’s a transit desert and most people cannot get to Aqueduct if they don’t have a car.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced April 9 that a new drive-through mobile testing facility opened at the Club House at the Aqueduct Race Track parking lot and a walk-in testing facility would open at a health care center in Jamaica. Cuomo’s announcement came after the city health department statistics showed that COVID-19 was disproportionately killing Latino and black New Yorkers.

“I wasn’t surprised by those numbers, I wasn’t shocked at all by those stats,” Johnson said. “There has always been a lack of resources here in southeast Queens. It’s a healthy food desert — a supermarket just closed here in Cambria Heights. But there’s a big lack of access to health care. From Day One we should have been testing at Roy Wilkins Park. We have concerts there but no testing. We are always at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to resources and we have to address this properly going forward.”

Meanwhile, Johnson is begging the younger generation in southeast Queens to pay attention to what happened to him.

“At 29 years old, I would never have imagined being diagnosed with coronavirus. I want young adults and Millennials to be informed that the risks of contracting the virus are not based on age, race, nor gender,” Johnson said. “It seems this information has not been highlighted enough, being that the virus has no age requirements. COVID-19 is knocking on everyone’s door, we need to make sure we don’t answer. I am asking young adults and Millenials to please educate yourselves, take precautions, stay healthy, safe, and self-quarantine to prevent contracting the virus or spreading it.”

Johnson already suffered from asthma so the virus has hit him harder. He’s had a high fever, severe headaches, excessive coughing, body aches, loss of smell, and extreme weight loss at nearly 20 pounds.

“Although there isn’t a cure for COVID-19, together, we can flatten the curve,’ Johnson said. “Whether you have symptoms or not, the virus can lie dormant in your system. Please practice social distancing and understand the importance of prevention and quarantining. It is imperative to remain calm, continue to utilize social media to remain informed on the latest news, and community resources. Mostly, please stay home.”

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