For weeks, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to “go about your lives” as fears of the novel coronavirus spread, advice that has come back to haunt him as the pandemic takes a deadly toll on the Big Apple.
On the 24th of January New York City officials laid out their preparedness plans, accurately assessing that the city’s international travel hub and large population made the coronavirus’s arrival just about inevitable. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared, “We have to act on the assumption that there will, unfortunately, be cases sooner rather than later in New York City. . . . We are working from the assumption that it’s a profound challenge. There’s no one here who is minimizing it.”
Bill de Blasio also said, “What we do know, to date, is that only through prolonged exposure can someone contract this virus. It is not a situation as with some other diseases where a single contact would be enough.”
This was the first of many times that city officials unknowingly shared information about the coronavirus that was not accurate, and they encouraged city residents to continue activities that probably continued the spread of the virus. With New York City now the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the decisions and statements by city officials from late January to early March have an unnerving sense of whistling past the graveyard, with well-meaning but bad advice exacerbating the coming deluge.
But probably the biggest villain in this situation is the New York City’s health commissioner.
Over the last two months, Oxiris Barbot, the city’s health commissioner, said that riding public transit and going out into public — including attending the Chinese Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown, were not just responsible behaviors, but would additionally help defeat anti-Asian prejudices.
“We are encouraging New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives and suggest practicing everyday precautions that we do through the flu season,” Barbot said on January 26th. She even added that those “who had recently traveled from Wuhan were not being urged to self-quarantine or avoid large public gatherings.”
On February 2nd, she urged the same lack of caution: “The risk to New Yorkers for Coronavirus is low, and our preparedness as a city is very high. There is no reason not to take the subway, not to take the bus, not to go out to your favorite restaurant, and certainly not to miss the parade next Sunday.”
”I’m going to be there,” she added for extra reassurance.
On Twitter, she suggested it would be racist not to attend the Chinatown parade.
“As we gear up to celebrate the #LunarNewYear in NYC, I want to assure New Yorkers that there is no reason for anyone to change their holiday plans, avoid the subway, or certain parts of the city because of #coronavirus,” she tweeted. “I want to be clear, this is about a virus, not a group of people. There is NO excuse for anyone to discriminate or stigmatize people of Asian heritage. We are here today to urge all New Yorkers to continue to live their lives as usual.”
As we gear up to celebrate the #LunarNewYear in NYC, I want to assure New Yorkers that there is no reason for anyone to change their holiday plans, avoid the subway, or certain parts of the city because of #coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/r4gNWklGPX
— Commissioner Oxiris Barbot (@NYCHealthCommr) February 2, 2020
For weeks, city officials discouraged New Yorkers from altering their routines or behaviors, before the contagiousness of the coronavirus and severity of the outbreak became painfully clear. Public officials’ insistence that life could and should go on as normal for most city residents continued all the way into mid-March — probably exacerbating an already-threatening situation.
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Alex D is a conservative journalist, who covers all issues of importance for conservatives. He writes for Conservative US, Red State Nation, Defiant America, and Supreme Insider. He brings attention and insight from what happens in the White House to the streets of American towns, because it all has an impact on our future, and the country left for our children. Exposing the truth is his ultimate goal, mixed with wit where it’s appropriate, and feels that journalism shouldn’t be censored. Join him & let’s spread the good word!