When I was finally able to get vaccinated, I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. Society, I thought, would be back to normal(ish) soon. I felt comfortable enough to return to my job at a public city hospital, knowing I could keep my family safe from Covid even if I came in contact with the virus.
But that’s not happening now. New York rapidly lifted their mask mandate on an honor system that was never going to be adhered to. Misinformation about the Covid shot ran so rampant that not enough people got vaccinated to stave off another wave. Then Delta arrived in the US.
My anger and frustration is layered. The politics surrounding Covid affects me both personally and as a healthcare worker.
I work in rehab so we see patients with a variety of diagnoses. Each person’s Covid vaccination status is listed in their chart, and nearly all of my patients are unvaccinated. My hospital serves low-income communities, including the elderly, immigrants, and Black and Brown people. According to New York State’s website, only 46.8% of the people in the community surrounding my hospital have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 41.1% of people are fully vaccinated.
Statistically speaking, people from low-income areas are more likely to have underlying conditions due to a lack of preventative care. They often rely on public transportation to get to their jobs. The elderly are at risk of contracting Covid simply because of their age. They represent a large swath of unvaccinated people who will be coming into the hospital, sick, in the coming months. Many will die.
I don’t know the reasons for low vaccination rates. Maybe we need more outreach in a variety of languages or more mobile vaccination teams at more sites. But we definitely need our leaders — regardless of party or ideology — to work with singular focus to reduce the spread of this awful disease.
Recently, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) visited my hospital for a board meeting about equipment she provided to the hospital through federal funds. She took a few photos, posted them to Facebook, and walked away. She didn’t ask how she could assist our healthcare workers and institution with escalating Covid cases. She didn’t inquire about low vaccination rates within the community. She did not speak to any of the doctors and nurses who have been dealing with Covid-19 for the past 18 months. She did not ask how we can possibly cope with another wave of illness, death, and stark fear. She hasn’t even advocated for the FEMA money owed to NYC’s public health and hospitals, nor has she indicated support for a federal budget bill that will expand access to healthcare and bolster our health systems’ aging infrastructure.
I live on Staten Island, which is also in her district. Currently, fewer than half of Staten Islanders are vaccinated (whether by choice or age restrictions) — not nearly the 70% needed to reach any type of herd immunity to bring our numbers down.
From the beginning of the pandemic, through her actions, Malliotakis has made it clear that she does not feel that 3,000 dead and countless more suffering in her district matter as much as climbing the political ladder.
She undermined masking and social distancing rules. She held a pro-Trump rally last summer with most of the people in attendance unmasked. She fought for Mac’s Public House to remain open during mandated business closures because they did not want to adhere to the laws set forth by the state.
Now she has joined other local Republicans to oppose mask mandates in public schools, just as the city is experiencing a surge of Covid-19 variants that are more dangerous to children than ever. This is an incredibly dangerous political maneuver. Pediatric ICUs in the South are filled with children and the local effort to “unmask our children” would cause the same catastrophe here. To pretend that children — who cannot yet be vaccinated or control their own personal space — will magically be safe while unmasked in crowded schools fills me with absolute ire. It goes against everything we have learned since the start of the pandemic.
It saddens me to see Malliotakis use her considerable influence on Fox News and other media channels railing about Cuba and China while her constituents in NY-11 are floundering in our own crisis. She’s turned her back on the people she represents by putting out angry Facebook statements and sending her staff to rallies that undermine any efforts the city is putting forth to mitigate the current Covid wave.
For politicians to get vaccinated to protect themselves while refusing to ask their communities to do the same is the worst sort of hypocrisy. Actions speak louder than words and Malliotakis and her local clown crew of Republican politicians are screaming.
There is some potential for good news on the horizon, however. NY-11 actually could gain more Democratic voters in the redistricting process — New York State is set to lose one seat, and a commission, not partisan players, will be in control of redrawing district lines.
NY-11 desperately needs a representative who works to keep its constituents safe. Nicole Malliotakis must be voted out.
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