Jul 29, 2020

Covid-19 Working Group Holds Press Conference to Address Mayor de Blasio's Botched Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 Working Group Holds Press Conference to Address Mayor de Blasio's Botched Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Press contacts: Onsite- Joe Osmundson, (646) 457-1764, jo58@nyu.edu Offsite - Jennifer Avril, (646) 732-1573, j.johnson-avril@housingworks.org

Live Streaming: Via Zoom: Meeting ID: 848 3833 0910 Passcode: 584297; Via Twitter: @COVID19NY

July 29, 2020 -- New York City, NY -- COVID-19 Working Group-New York (www.covid-19workinggroupnyc.org) will hold a press conference today, July 29th, at 10 AM near Gracie Mansion at 86th street and East End to call out the botched response of the de Blasio administration to the COVID-19 crisis in NYC. Speakers will include Anthony Feliciano, Director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System; Sutton King, Founder and Executive Director of the Urban Indigenous Collective; Anthony Fortenberry, Chief Nursing Officer from Callen-Lorde; Amanda Lugg, Director of Advocacy and LGBTQ Programming from African Services Committee; Brian Romero, Policy Associate from GMHC; Fiona Lowenstein from the Body Politic; Jawanza Williams, Director of Organizing at VOCAL-NY; and Jeremiah Johnson, HIV Project Director at Treatment Action Group.

The Working Group asks that Mayor de Blasio immediately meet with members of the COVID-19 Working Group-New York to discuss the following demands and create a timeline for their implementation. The Mayor must:

1. Center the most vulnerable communities, especially BIPOC, Latinx, TGNC and homeless New Yorkers, in the city's COVID-19 response

2. Put DOHMH back in charge of the response: NOT politicians, NOT private company contractors

3. Commit to accurate, transparent data on the public health response. Recent presentations on the city’s preparedness to avert a second wave of infections through a test and trace program have been deliberately misleading, and community recommendations on improved transparency have been largely ignored

4. Commit to protecting data from misuse by NYPD, ICE, and any other outside entity, including the prevention of law and immigration officials assuming roles as contact tracers

5. Commit to accessible, dignified, safe isolation spaces for New Yorkers who cannot isolate in their homes or in COVID-19 isolation hotels and homeless shelters

City Hall’s response to COVID-19 has left the most affected communities out of the planning process, sidelined the health department due to petty infighting, unnecessarily delayed social distancing and other preventative measures, failed to scale up effective test and trace efforts, and is currently contributing to a significant lag time in the receipt of COVID-19 and antibody test results.

These failures have all contributed to the over 32,000 deaths from COVID-19 related causes in New York city to date. With the re-opening already under way, we must take steps to ensure the safety of communities in hot zones now and through the remainder of the COVID-19 epidemic. We are deeply disturbed by the prospect of a second surge that could again overwhelm hospitals and cause disproportionate suffering and death among Black and Latinx New Yorkers. The communities we are a part of deserve to have evidence that everything is being done to avert the recurrence of an avoidable tragedy.

Attending members of the press are asked to wear masks and observe social distancing.

“New Yorkers have sacrificed enormously to flatten the curve and make up for the Mayor’s incompetence and delays in calling for social distancing and other mitigation strategies at the start of the crisis. Now, we remain completely unprepared to avert a second wave of infections because Bill de Blasio continues to sideline public health and community health experts, prioritizing politics over the safety and wellbeing of the people he is charged to protect. The COVID-19 Working Group demands an immediate meeting with the Mayor’s office and a meaningful commitment to placing community and public health leadership at the heart of our ongoing response to the pandemic.” Jeremiah Johnson, HIV Project Director, Treatment Action Group

"As a statewide campaign dedicated to universal, guaranteed healthcare for all, including passing the NY Health Act, we are troubled at how New York's COVID-19 response has left the most affected New Yorkers behind - resulting in over 32,000 COVID-19 deaths in New York City alone to date. We know that a just COVID-19 response prioritizes the leadership of the New Yorkers closest to the issue. Public health experts must be at the table, shaping the response and centering Black, Latinx, and disabled New Yorkers to ensure our healthcare system is best prepared to avert further death and harm." - Ursula Rozum & YuLing Koh Hsu, the Campaign for NY Health.

“Let us not be vocal today and be silent tomorrow. Let us not be present today and absent tomorrow. The city and state have a responsibility to help elevate the talk and solutions about racism and inequities. It should not be when it is convenient for them to do so. They must communicate with everyday New Yorkers and with people who have been disproportionately impacted on combating stigma and discrimination that have been left to permeate easily into the response and mitigation of this pandemic. Too many New Yorkers died but too many Black and Brown lives are no longer in this world when much of it could have been prevented. Compounding this tragedy are diminishing or ignoring our most marginalized communities, relying on private companies and private contracts for test and trace efforts, and politics of power and male egos between the Mayor and Governor. This has provided conditions for our communities to be in vulnerable situations. The very same communities that afforded these politicians to lead the city and many New Yorkers more fortunate and privileged to shelter in place. This is not only unacceptable it sustains racially unjust systems that have long decided who lives, who dies, who thrives and who just gets by. The Mayor and Governor take a pause as we continue with restarting the economy, and remind yourself and the decision makers that low income workers mostly who are people of color are protagonists in the city and the state’s recovery, said Anthony Feliciano, Director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has re-exposed the vexing structural racism, oppression and patriarchy that creates poorer health outcomes for people of color and LGBTQ communities. Racial and LGBTQ health equity only will come when our communities can access culturally-competent and comprehensive health care in all of its forms,” said Anthony Fortenberry, Chief Nursing Officer at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. “As a community health center our job in this pandemic is to care for our communities and forestall the burdening of the larger health system. We can only do that if we center the public’s health – scale up test and trace efforts, engage the communities that are most impacted, create interventions that are informed by data and protect confidentiality. We urge the Mayor and the City of New York to do whatever is necessary to take these steps as we confront a potential second wave of COVID-19 and the possibility of thousands more infections and deaths in New York City.”

"It's become increasingly apparent that COVID-19 patients often face devastating long-term physical, mental, and financial consequences. COVID-19 "long-haulers" - those who remain sick for months after their initial symptom onset - face significant issues accessing comprehensive medical care, paid leave from employment, and meeting the demands of their new and relentless condition. Medical providers and scientists still aren't able to answer many of these patients' questions, and some believe "long-haulers" may be exhibiting signs of chronic illness, perhaps indicative of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). This issue requires further funding and study; the community of COVID-19 patients and survivors is only growing, and with it the community of people whose lives and health may be permanently altered by this disease. Long-haulers in particular, but all COVID-19 patients, need accessible, comprehensive, long-term medical care; legal protections; and financial support." Says Fiona Lowenstein, member of the Body Politic Support Group

“The work of centering the most directly impacted communities in our public health systems cannot simply be words. It requires intention. Our most marginalized communities are being hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are the ones missing from the planning and implementation of our response to COVID-19. Government leaders began to see the changes we needed to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic when they listened to activists. We urge the Mayor to heed those lessons and collaborate further with those on the ground.” - Brian Romero, Policy Associate at GMHC



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