When the post-mortem on the coronavirus crisis in America is written and we learn why New York City was one of the epicenters for the outbreak of the contagion, you won’t have to look much further this quote from February 9 by New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.
Dr. Barbot is the "first Latina and first Puerto Rican" to be Health Commissioner.
On February 2, 2020, Barbot [Tweet her] asserted those who “spread racist ideas” about the coronavirus represented the greatest risk to New Yorkers:
For Chinatown, the arrival of the Chinese new year is important not just on a personal level, but also an economic one. But false rumors about the coronavirus outbreak in China have stirred “unreasonable” public fears.
Next week, Feb. 9, Chinatown will host its annual Lunar New Year parade, which always attracts a massive crowd and serves as a vital economic boost for the neighborhood and its business community. On Sunday, community leaders urged the public not to listen to the rumors, but to come to Chinatown and enjoy the yearly celebration and its pageantry.
Queens state Senator John Liu said the virus has not only caused “unreasonable fears,” but he said, “I’ve been somewhat disturbed if not outright appalled at some of the comments and gestures that I’ve seen and my constituents have seen against the Asian community.”
“There is no need to cast aspersions on an entire community because this is happening,” Liu charged. “Diseases originate in particular places in the world and this came from an area of China which is a very large country. The comments being made by some people are unreasonable, if not downright offensive.”
He assured the crowd that “every precaution” was being taken – just like every flu season, and asserted that there is no reason to anyone to panic or avoid the activities in Chinatown or anywhere else.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, fresh off her press conference from the night before at Bellevue with the mayor, assured the public that they were taking every step to insure the safety of the public. At this time, she said the 40-year-old woman being held in isolation at Bellevue Hospital since Friday was in “stable condition” and doing well, but test results have not come back from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The woman had been in China days before and took the precaution of going to the hospital when she felt ill.
Dr. Barbot said it was “understandable that people were anxious when there is something new or something they don’t understand and something that may change on our daily basis.”
“The importance of events like this is to share with New Yorkers the reality that there is some things that we know, some things we don’t know and we are still learning,” Dr. Barbot said. “The risk for New Yorkers of the coronavirus is low, and our preparedness as a city is very high. While it is understandable that people feel anxious, that is no way shape or form an excuse for them to use that as an opportunity to spread misinformation, to spread racist ideas because that is currently the greatest risk to New Yorker’s.”
Dr. Barbot said residents should instead, “come together, know the information and share that information.” But she warned, “rumors can be as dangerous as any virus.” [City leaders seek to allay fears of coronavirus in Chinatown, by Todd Maisel, AMNY.com, February 2, 2020]
As of April 6, 2020, New York City has nearly 69,000 cases of the coronavirus and, sadly, 2,738 deaths.
Here's a tweet from Dr. Barbot on February 17:
As a doctor I can say there is no reason to avoid any neighborhood because of the novel coronavirus. As a New Yorker, I know that ANY discrimination is abhorrent and unacceptable. https://t.co/WxS5bXkcU8— Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD (@NYCHealthCommr) February 16, 2020
One she retweeted from February 12:
Irrational fears about coronavirus and prejudice are hurting our Asian small businesses. To be clear: there are currently no cases of the virus in NYC.— Carlina Rivera (@CarlinaRivera) February 12, 2020
Today I join w/@CM_MargaretChin, @ChinatownNYC to ask you to visit, eat, shop and #SupportChinatown pic.twitter.com/P542ZMdEeN
One from February 9, urging New Yorkers to go to Chinatown:
Today our city is celebrating the #LunarNewYear parade in Chinatown, a beautiful cultural tradition with a rich history in our city. I want to remind everyone to enjoy the parade and not change any plans due to misinformation spreading about #coronavirus. https://t.co/bwCnIb7j8H— Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD (@NYCHealthCommr) February 9, 2020
One from February 6, in Chinatown herself:
Today I’m enjoying a wonderful lunch in Chinatown. I’ve been disheartened by reports of bias and discrimination against the Asian community recently. Let me be clear – our public health response is about a virus, not a group of people. pic.twitter.com/E5lDPR4tKz— Commissioner Ashwin Vasan, MD, PhD (@NYCHealthCommr) February 6, 2020
So always remember the words of New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who on February 2, 2020, encouraged all of those citizens in New York City to attend the Chinese Lunar Day event on February 9th and asserted those who “spread racist ideas” represented the greatest risk to New Yorker’s.
Had New York City actually enacted a quarantine from those returning from China to the city, how many New Yorkers would still believe? But let’s keep pretending “racism” is the real health risk.