Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Several Jamaicans contract COVID-19 at Florida birthday party - Community also shaken by passing of prominent social worker ‘DC’

Published:Monday | July 13, 2020 | 12:21 AMKaryl Walker/Senior Gleaner Writer
Norman Perkins.
Norman Perkins.

The Jamaican community in West Palm Beach, Florida, is in mourning following news of the passing of community activist and businessman Norman Perkins, affectionately known as ‘DC’ even as reports swirl of several Jamaicans contracting the virus at a recent party.

Perkins, 56, passed away last week after being committed to hospital, suffering from COVID-19.

It is believed that he contracted the virus while assisting in the preparation of care packages to be distributed to those in need at the church he attends in the South Florida County.

Perkins was a regular fixture at the Jamaican-owned Caribbean Teaze Restaurant located at Green Acres, where Jamaicans regularly hung out for dominoes, table tennis, Sunday night oldies sessions and Jamaican fare.

“He was a good man who was always helping out others and would always talk about returning home to Jamaica to retire. He always wore his mask, so we don’t know how he caught it, but his death has shocked us, and we are deeply saddened,” friend Barrington Billings told The Gleaner.

Florida has emerged as one of the hotspots in the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 270,000 cases recorded and nearly 5,000 deaths.

Yesterday, Florida reported 15,299 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of new cases reported in a single day by any state since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Perkins’ passing has sent shivers through the Jamaican community in South Florida, where at least a dozen Jamaicans were recently hospitalised after contracting the deadly virus. The Jamaicans were among a number of people who ill-advisedly attended a birthday party at an open-air location in the county and decided to do away with their masks.

“News that this has happened is sad as we had been keeping tabs on our community, and up until now, there were very few Jamaicans who lived here who had been tagged as contracting the disease,” Jamaica’s consul general for the southern region of the United States, Oliver Mair, told The Gleaner.

The outbreak among the Jamaicans who attended the party was detected after a number of them fell ill within days of the event. Some of the infected include healthcare workers, retail store employees, and business owners.

One of the attendees to the session told The Gleaner that everyone was having a grand time and expressed relief that they finally could leave their homes and lyme with friends.

“A lot of people were at the party, and the vibe was good. We were all glad for a time to come together again. Some people remove them mask, and is mostly them catch it. I glad I never remove my mask, only when me want to catch a smoke or a sip,” the woman, who did not want to be identified, said.

Eric Baldwin, who has lived in the town of Wellington in West Palm Beach for 25 years and is a regular fixture at Caribbean entertainment events, had his plans to attend the event thwarted by a punctured front tyre. He is not cursing his luck.

“I am so glad I did not get to go. After we changed the tyre, I just said, ‘Time to go home, yah man’. This corona thing dread. We can’t get a break, and our lives have been changed so dramatically,” he said.

One of the infected individuals, who has been treated and released from hospital, spoke to The Gleaner.

“We never think it would come at us so hard,” he said. “I work with old people, and my job is now at risk even if I live it out.”

karyl.walker@gleanerjm.com