U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s recent call to “open the north country economy” before New York City and the rest of the country is reckless and, frankly, ignorant. Epidemiologic models show that the novel coronavirus spreads from urban population centers to the suburbs and ultimately to rural areas. Peak levels of infection in the north country are not expected for some weeks.
Returning to “normal” will have severe consequences. The economic and social disruptions we face are a concern, but they must not eclipse rigorous public health measures. The potential of severe illness and death is not theoretical.
Low-income individuals, the elderly, chronically ill and those in close-quarters such as retirement centers, nursing homes and prisons are particularly at risk. Widespread testing is needed before we can safely “restart” the economy.
Constituents of the 21st Congressional District rightfully expect our representative to work toward:
n Ensuring the availability of adequate supplies and equipment to prevent and treat COVID-19.
n Securing the public health infrastructure that is necessary to protecting our community.
n Expanding the Payroll Protection Plan to adequately support workers and small businesses.
n Pursuing genuine health care reform so that quality health care is affordable and accessible for everyone.
Where is Stefanik’s voice for our needs? It is a travesty that far too many of those we designate “essential workers,” though still working in this crisis, continue to economically struggle — underpaid and without health benefits or paid sick leave.
Rather than endangering the health of all north county residents by ignoring the risks of “opening the economy” too quickly, Rep. Stefanik should champion issues critical to the real needs of our communities: education, clean air and water, transportation, housing, prison reform, and job development. She must act wisely and without delay as our representative and not use her position for self-interested political gain.