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General News

Greek-Americans in the Southern U.S. Talk to TNH about COVID-19

July 7, 2020
By Matina Demelis

NEW YORK – The coronavirus is at its peak in the states of Texas and Florida, with the number of recorded cases increasing every day. In Texas, most restaurants are closed, while some continue with delivery and take-out only. People are wearing masks in public, and are not allowed to enter stores and supermarkets without them.

Greek-Americans in Houston number about 5,000. One of them is Dennis Moustakis, who has been running a car repair shop for 47 years and has eight employees. He told The National Herald that the situation is not good, “Houston is in the red. The restaurants are suffering, most have closed. I remain open and fortunately I did not fire employees, nor did I reduce salaries.”

Moustakis is also a member of the Houston Marathon Committee and the event is likely to be canceled. “I do not think we can run the marathon this year. Things are difficult. People are circulating with masks, no one can enter a store if they are not wearing them,” he said.

As for the cases, he said that he also lost a friend of his due to COVID-19 in New York. “And one of my clients lost his life, while I know others with whom I work who have been treated,” he told TNH.

The image in many parts of Florida it seems like no one has ever heard of the coronavirus. The restaurants are open, the bars are open to the public, the beaches are open and full. “There is no fear. People are not aware of what is happening around them,” said Manolis Velivasakis, a former president of the Pan-Cretan Association of America and the World Council of Cretans.

As he describes, all the shops are open, the malls, the bars, the beaches, and in many cases social distancing is not observed. “People wear masks but there is no fear among them. I am much more afraid now and unfortunately we do not see any solidarity among our leaders. The shops are full but the hospitals in Tampa are also almost full,” Velivasakis said.

Maria Politis of Palm Beach doesn't go out much as she worries because she sees a lot of people on the streets. “Even though most people wear a mask, I'm still worried. Distances are not always observed and people move freely on the beaches without restrictions,” she said.

Nina Petropoulou from Houston, Texas, tries not to go out much either. “The people are circulating. The shops are all open. When we go out, we are careful. We wear masks, gloves and go. The only restaurants I go to are Greek, where I know the owner. In general, we are safe and avoid unnecessary travel.”

Elizabeth Kanakis also from Houston, expresses her concern as the number of cases continues to rise. She has not left her home in two months. Now, she has begun to circulate timidly. “Always with a mask, of course. If we don't wear it, there’s a fine. People are being careful. They don't go out like before to restaurants. After so long, I went out for a doctor’s appointment. I also started going to the restaurant, but only at the outdoor tables and always with my mask. We can't do otherwise. I haven't gone shopping yet because I'm a senior and I'm scared.”

Nikos Apostolopoulos of North Carolina works in real estate. As he told TNH, work has been greatly reduced. “The situation is not good. Work has slowed down. Many businesses are closing permanently. Fortunately, the Greek ones are not closing and I believe this is because the Greek puts in a personal effort. The restaurants are operating at 50% of their capacity,” he said.

North Carolina is still in phase 2. “The situation is going backwards due to the fact that there are more cases. South Carolina has cases and that affects us even though we don't have as many cases. It is difficult for the customer to have the trust to go out and spend on food, clothes, etc. But I think it's only a matter of time before we come back,” Apostolopoulos said.

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