New York City’s health commissioner, ostensibly responsible for advising New Yorkers on best health practices, is coming under fire for the role she may have played in the city becoming America’s biggest Coronavirus cluster.
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.”
On February 7th, Barbot offered New Yorker’s the same bad advice, telling NY1: “The important thing for New Yorkers to know is that in the city currently their risk is low and our city preparedness is high. And so we know that this virus can be transmitted from one individual to another, but that it’s typically people who live together. That there’s no risk at this point in time — we’re always learning more — about having it be transmitted in casual contact, right?”
“So we’re telling New Yorkers, go about your lives, take the subway, go out, enjoy life, but practice everyday precautions,” she said.
Around this time, the media was largely focused on President Trump’s recent ban on travel from China to the United States. New York City’s Chinatown parade was being portrayed as an act of defiance against what was described as a prejudiced policy. Americans who began “social distancing” were in some cases labeled racist.
On the day the travel ban was announced, Joe Biden said: “The American people need to have a president who they can trust what he says about it, that he is going to act rationally about it. In moments like this, this is where the credibility of the president is most needed as he explains what we should and should not do. This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia and fear-mongering.”
When Americans began practicing “social distancing,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accused them of racism.
“Honestly, it sounds almost so silly to say, but there’s a lot of restaurants that are feeling the pain of racism, where people are literally not patroning [sic] Chinese restaurants, they’re not patroning [sic] Asian restaurants because of just straight up racism around the Coronavirus,” she said on Instagram Live.
Her Democratic colleague, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) likewise accused Americans of being “racist” for practicing what are now widely accepted as the best practices to prevent Coronavirus’ spread.
“You know, since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen not only the spreading of the virus but also a rapid spreading of racism and xenophobia,” the lawmaker said during a congressional oversight hearing. “We have witnessed it at the highest levels and, in fact, the Republican Party fanning, irresponsibly, these flames. One colleague tweeted that, ‘Everything you need to know about the Chinese Coronavirus.’ My district is home to nearly 32 percent foreign-born residents, with more than a quarter immigrating from Asia. This painful rhetoric has consequences. Restaurants across Boston’s Chinatown have seen up to an 80% drop in business. And I believe this has everything to do with the rapid spread of misinformation and paranoia.”
Americans, and Trump, were likewise attacked in the media. On CNN, contributor Jeff Yang said Americans were being racist for avoiding crowds and especially those sneezing and coughing.
“A lot of Asian-Americans and Asians in other countries, who are experiencing I guess you could say a metaphorically cold shoulder when it comes to being in public and simply being, you know, Chinese in a crowded space,” Yang said. “It’s something that causes people to part like the red sea, daring to cough or sneeze causes people to actually shy away from you. There is a sense in which people feel very much like there’s a kind of racial profiling occurring, simply because the disease so is far has been primarily limited in terms of fatalities.”
Yang additionally attacked Americans for connecting the spread of the Coronavirus to Chinese eating habits, even as scientists and China’s communist government agree that the virus can be traced back to “wet markets” where wild animals are sold for human consumption. “It is simply just beyond extreme and not held up by scientific data,” Yang said.
TV talking heads also claimed Trump’s Chinese travel ban is oppositional to science. The founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and frequent MSNBC guest, Peter Hotez, said: “Historically travel bans tend not to work very well, they tend to be counter productive.”
Related Supercut: Trump, Americans Called ‘Racist’ for Protecting Selves Against Coronavirus —