In early March last year, Jorge Morales was keeping customers caffeinated at Mike’s Coffee Express, a popular roadside food truck near LaGuardia Airport in Queens that he ran for more than 30 years.
At the time, a few Covid-19 cases had been reported in New York City, and while city and state officials said they were monitoring the virus, they urged residents to remain calm. Officials hadn’t yet recommended wearing masks or taking other precautions. Like other New Yorkers, Mr. Morales went about his life, putting in long hours in the truck, serving a mix of airport workers, taxi drivers and students at a nearby college.
“There was nothing in the air about what was going to happen,” Mr. Morales’s son, Danny Morales, said. “We were all in perfect spirits.”
On March 11, Jorge Morales, 65 years old, fell ill with a fever and began vomiting for four days straight, his son said. His condition worsened, leaving him unable to get out of bed in his home in Jackson Heights, Queens. Family members said Mr. Morales was hospitalized out of fear he was suffering complications of his Type-2 diabetes, but he later tested positive for Covid-19.
On April 7, Mr. Morales and 814 other New York City residents died from the virus. It was the deadliest day of the pandemic’s deadliest week in the city, according to city health department data. During that week, which began April 5, 5,319 residents died from the virus and nearly 10,000 people were hospitalized, the data show.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio began lockdown measures in mid-March, including closing schools and shifting restaurants to takeout only. The city was fully shut down on March 22. Epidemiologists and city officials credit that move, along with orders to wear masks, for slowing the spread of Covid-19. But by then the virus had already surged in the city.