More Bad News for Orlando’s Parramore: Harvard Study Links Pollution to COVID-19 Deaths

In a troubling, but sadly not surprising report from WFTV’s Angela Jacobs, a new Harvard study linking pollution with higher COVID-19 death rates raised additional concerns in Parramore. Jacobs has been providing in-depth reporting on the environmental injustice issues plaguing West Orlando for quite some time, and in her latest update she revealed that it’s no coincidence that Parramore is one of the county’s hot zones for coronavirus infections.

First, let’s set some context on the issue and make some things very clear. This is not about genes, or what individual residents have done. It’s the social and economic conditions the city created, city policy and city refusal to admit the truth on certain issues – like environmental justice issues. The local Orlando environmental injustice and horrible economic conditions in West Orlando over the years compound the virus risk.

For years, people like Lawanna Gelzer and myself along with many Parramore residents have demanded the City of Orlando focus on the environmental concerns on the west side of town. There is no one to blame except the local politicians like Buddy Dyer, who has been in office too long to make any excuses.

In fact, when Mayor Dyer was first elected he said to judge him based on Parramore. The gentrification was bad enough, but now his neglect over years and years in office have literally put our neighbors and fellow residents in this increased risk situation. The City Council, acting as a rubber stamp for Dyer, has too long neglected the reality of Parramore’s destruction. I raised these issues during the 2012 local election and yes, the Dyer damage is done. But it’s time for the City Council to finally act and make things right for Parramore.

In short, Dyer’s record has been a disaster for people in Parramore and West Orlando and this latest report by Angela Jacobs just makes it worse.

If you think of Dyer’s record, only gentrification projects like the Amway Center, the MLS stadium and Creative Village have received resources for clean-up. Those areas have without a doubt needed serious remediation and environmental funding before redevelopment was possible. But the residents and neighborhoods? Nothing for them. The Mayor and City Council have ignored Lawanna Gelzer requesting studies, support and funding for years.

Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando have put profits over people for years, and their actions, or lack of action, have been detrimental to environmental justice communities including our most vulnerable in Parramore. Once again, this is a call-to-action moment for the City of Orlando. I think there’s a real opportunity for Commissioner Regina Hill and newly-elected City Commissioner Bakari Burns to stand up to Mayor Dyer and demand the City Council address the fundamental inequalities facing West Orlando.

The socioeconomic disparities in Orlando under the Dyer administration are exemplified by Parramore. But your zip code or address in Orlando should not determine your level of risk. Maybe now Buddy Dyer will no longer be able to look the other way.

“It’s sad that it took a pandemic to bring the reality out,” said community activist Mike Cantone, who for nearly a decade has been working to draw attention to what he calls Parramore’s environmental injustice.

“I just hope it’s time for our local elected officials to join that conversation,” he said. “They can help get this done faster than the residents can.”



  1. I absolutely agree with the stance that west orlando has been plagued by social injustice/ lackluster crime prevention/ financial injustice environmental injustice/ unequal treatment by law enforcement – I can go on, but you get the drift.

    Where does this article describe the cause and effect of pollution as it relates specifically to Covid19? At best for now it’s a correlation.

    The community of Parramore has been hit hard because so many became jobless. Those that had jobs, what were they to do when it came to childcare? So people made do. They helped each other and social distancing wasn’t an option for many.

    This is true of every metropolitan area in communities that are struggling. The percentage of covid19 cases are far higher than anywhere else.

    If you attach it to pollution, do you want the remedy? That means more money going to correct that instead of today’s IMMEDIATE needs? Food. Money to pay rent. Healthcare.

  2. It references the recent Harvard study linking the two, but more research with all things COVID-19 is always needed. As I said in the WFTV interview, of course the focus has to be first on getting through this pandemic and the economic collapse due to the response first. But the priority should go to those who were hit hardest, so we’re just asking for the priority to finally go to our most vulnerable residents in Parramore and neglected West Orlando. They already needed help with food, money to pay rent and childcare, healthcare, and more before this pandemic. The failure of leadership goes back a long time sadly…

  3. I have been in Orlando over a year. I recall the Parramore srea from decades during desegregation.. I noticed the awful smell from Lake Dot. I get debilitating migraines here. The Coalition for the Homeless has definitely exacerbated conditions operating based on the housing first model. An example of the socio-economic disparity can be seen in a place lile Ormond Beach and its gorgeous seniors housing. Both were erected in the same time frame. I an very disappointed at the systemic racism evident that politicians and funding were denied ti the residents of the Callahan District. Property prices should have skyrocketed for property owners. I grew up in Thornton Park and we were funded! Homes remodeled and repairs accomplished. My mother in law purchased her home for $20,000. It is on the market for a substantial higher appraisal. It is a true travesty. I am saddened.

  4. Thank you Mike. Do you know what the best way is to send support (cash, food, diapers, etc) to residents in need? Also, is there a local environmental justice organization that people can get involved with?


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