• Arely is seen in Johns Hopkins Hospital after having breathing problems and being diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Arely via AP)
    Arely is seen in Johns Hopkins Hospital after having breathing problems and being diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Arely via AP)
  • In this FaceTime screen grab made by Janeth, Arely is seen in her hospital bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital after having breathing problems and being diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Janeth via AP)
    In this FaceTime screen grab made by Janeth, Arely is seen in her hospital bed at Johns Hopkins Hospital after having breathing problems and being diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Janeth via AP)
  • Roberto, left, and Janeth, right, adjust a face mask for their daughter Allison, 5, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, outside their rented basement apartment in Washington. The family has placed a red towel in their doorway hoping that the
    Roberto, left, and Janeth, right, adjust a face mask for their daughter Allison, 5, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, outside their rented basement apartment in Washington. The family has placed a red towel in their doorway hoping that the “angel of death will pass over our home,” says Janeth. Since this image was taken Janeth and her husband Roberto, as well as her sister Arely, have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Arely is seen in Johns Hopkins Hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Arely via AP)
    Arely is seen in Johns Hopkins Hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Arely via AP)
  • Arely and her husband Rosali, right, take a family photograph with their children Dora, 11, Roberto, 5, and Sirus, 14, after Arely returned from the hospital diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 14 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Arely via AP)
    Arely and her husband Rosali, right, take a family photograph with their children Dora, 11, Roberto, 5, and Sirus, 14, after Arely returned from the hospital diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 14 2020, in Baltimore. Having stayed only in her home for months she has no idea how she contracted the virus. (Arely via AP)
  • Allison, 5, plays peek-a-boo with her mother Janeth from outside her bedroom window in this family photograph after both of her parents were both diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, at their home in Washington. (Janeth via AP)
    Allison, 5, plays peek-a-boo with her mother Janeth from outside her bedroom window in this family photograph after both of her parents were both diagnosed with COVID-19, Thursday May 7, 2020, at their home in Washington. (Janeth via AP)
  • Roberto, 5, stands in their doorway in his pajama's as his mother Arely carries in a bag of food brought to their rental in Baltimore by her sister Janeth, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Since this image was taken Arely, Janeth, and Janeth's husband Roberto have all been diagnosed with COVID-19, leaving them unable to leave their homes to look for food. Arely was briefly hospitalized with breathing problems as a result of her illness. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
    Roberto, 5, stands in their doorway in his pajama’s as his mother Arely carries in a bag of food brought to their rental in Baltimore by her sister Janeth, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Since this image was taken Arely, Janeth, and Janeth’s husband Roberto have all been diagnosed with COVID-19, leaving them unable to leave their homes to look for food. Arely was briefly hospitalized with breathing problems as a result of her illness. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Allison, 5, plays, as her mother Janeth sits outside their basement apartment unit with the family dog, Henry, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Washington. Since this image was taken Janeth and her husband Roberto have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
    Allison, 5, plays, as her mother Janeth sits outside their basement apartment unit with the family dog, Henry, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Washington. Since this image was taken Janeth and her husband Roberto have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Screen grab shows a portrait from a Zoom interview with Roberto, left, and Janeth, who have both tested positive for COVID-19, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, in Washington. Janeth and her husband Roberto, as well as her sister Arely in Baltimore, have all been diagnosed with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
    Screen grab shows a portrait from a Zoom interview with Roberto, left, and Janeth, who have both tested positive for COVID-19, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, in Washington. Janeth and her husband Roberto, as well as her sister Arely in Baltimore, have all been diagnosed with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Janeth wipes away tears as she worries about how to feed her family, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Washington. Since this image was taken Janeth and her husband Roberto have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The back door clicked shut behind him, and he faced the brick walls of the alley. Roberto, one of tens of millions of newly laid off U.S. workers desperate to make ends meet in the pandemic, struggled with his emotions, upset at being steered to the clinic’s rear exit.

But then fear and sorrow overtook him as the doctor’s final words sank in.

“It’s possible you have the virus,” the doctor had said from under her mask, standing all the way across the room. “You have the symptoms.”

His mind turned to the hundreds of thousands of people already dead of the disease around the world. That may be me now, he thought.

Earlier this month, The Associated Press documented the plight of Roberto, a restaurant cook in his mid-30s, and his wife, Janeth, a restaurant worker in her mid-40s, a Honduran couple now finding it hard to put food on the table for their sunny 5-year-old daughter, Allison.

The couple, who came to the U.S. illegally years ago, are among the more than 36 million workers who lost their jobs in the country’s economic lockdown. Their days since the outbreak’s start were spent standing in food bank lines, chasing tips about grocery giveaways and temporary jobs, and sharing some of the meager groceries they managed to obtain with family members even worse off. The AP is withholding their full names and some other identifying information because they risk deportation.

Roberto had gone to the clinic because he thought he had allergies. Janeth, feeling ill, later went in to be tested as well. Days later, the couple’s cellphones rang with the bad news: Husband and wife had tested positive for the coronavirus.

These days, Roberto and Janeth close themselves up in the bedroom of their basement apartment on the edge of D.C., shutting Allison out in hopes of saving her from infection.

With her parents in quarantine, the girl balances on the windowsill outside her parent’s bedroom to play peek-a-boo with them through the window. Other times, she stands with her ear pressed to the closed bedroom door, trying to figure out what her parents are doing. At night, they hear her cry as she sleeps alone.

Each day, Janeth turns to the light from the window and raises her hands in supplication.

What does she pray for? “I want to raise my daughter,” she says. “I want to die in my country, Honduras, someday. It would be so hard to die here.”

The family is among up to 12 million immigrants in the U.S. without documentation, barred from most federal government aid. That prohibition, health and policy experts say, is counterproductive; if those immigrants remain outside the system, that makes it much harder for them to participate in social distancing, sheltering at home and contact tracing — measures key to controlling the virus’ spread.

They also are among the very most vulnerable to exposure to the virus, unable to work from home and forced to constantly venture out in search of food. The district’s statistics show that Hispanics are dying of the coronavirus at far higher rates than white residents.

At the Upper Cardozo Health Center in northwest Washington, where Roberto received his coronavirus test, members of the hard-pressed medical staff know that telling working-class patients to quarantine often means jeopardizing their means of survival. Staying at home to avoid infecting others can mean families lose their jobs, leaving them unable to pay rent or buy food and medicine.

Dr. Jose Luis Nunez Gallegos, the assistant medical director, explained that clinic workers meant no disrespect in sending some patients out the back door – that procedure was established to minimize the risk of infection those seeking more routine care.

At home, fever set in for Roberto. Janeth’s nose bled, her lungs ached.

She boiled tea with lemons, onions and ginger, but realized she was unable to taste it or smell the over-the-counter salve the couple was using – common symptoms of coronavirus.

The day after Roberto received his diagnosis came a FaceTime call from Janeth’s younger sister, Arely, who is stranded in her Baltimore apartment without a car, with three children under 14.

All had seemed well when Janeth had yet again taken food to her days earlier, greeting her with a hug.

Now, Janeth was shocked to see the image on her phone of her younger sister lying on a bed in a hospital, exhausted and struggling for air.

Janeth recalled the hug, and she blamed herself.

“Don’t feel bad, sister,” Arely told her. “It got us.”

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