In the March 19 issue of the Western Edition of The Southampton Press, the A section is devoted to articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impact on Suffolk County and Southampton Town. There are quotes and statements from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, mayors, school superintendents and hospital administrators. Conspicuously missing is any statement from Congressman Lee Zeldin.
On the congressman’s Facebook page and in his appearances on Fox News, from January through early March of this year, his comments included supporting President Trump against impeachment, criticizing New York for bail reform, insinuating that Democrats want to enable voting by undocumented residents, and the highlighting the danger of MS-13. But not one word about the growing epidemic.
Now that the pandemic has been declared a national emergency, his website has information for the public about the virus and his office has issued a series of press releases. But we know that Congress was informed by our intelligence services in January that the novel coronavirus that began in China at the end of 2019 had the potential to be a global pandemic. China released the genetic code for the virus at the beginning of January to help scientists in other countries prepare test kits and institute procedures to contain the virus. We did neither.
Instead, President Trump called it a Democratic hoax, Fox News repeated this misinformation campaign, and Zeldin focused on spreading lies about bail reform. Countries like Australia and South Korea that immediately implemented policies to test and contain the virus are in far better shape today.
No resident of the district should be surprised. Zeldin has not stood with protecting the public health of his constituents at any time in his tenure in Congress. He voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, voted for the GOP deficient replacement bill in 2017, and lied about that vote in the 2018 midterm election, pretending he supported protections for pre-existing conditions.
The constituents of the 1st District are now facing a grave danger to both the public health and economic health of our district. Our hospitals in Suffolk County are facing overwhelming numbers of emergencies. And our shuttered businesses and their employees are facing ruin.
We, the taxpayers of this district have the right to know why we are on a COVID-19 case accrual curve closer to Italy than to South Korea. Where was Congressman Zeldin when this threat was building? Why was he busy spouting right-wing talking points and propping up a president who was calling this a hoax rather than raising the alarm about the threat to our district and getting us the necessary resources?
We need answers.
By Barbara Weber-Floyd