Williams tests positive for COVID-19

America Protests New York
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Associated Press / Frank Franklin II, file

Caribbean American New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams disclosed Friday night that he has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

“Tonight, I tested positive for COVID-19, along with thousands of other New Yorkers, as the next wave of the virus rises in our city and state,” said Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, in a statement. “I have mild symptoms and am quarantining at home away from my pregnant wife, who has tested negative.

“I know that isolation is a privilege not everyone has, and I’m grateful to be both vaccinated and boosted,” added Williams, a candidate for Governor of New York in next June’s Democratic Primary. “The recent spike in COVID-19 cases across New York is urgent and alarming, and this is a time to take precautions that can prevent both a deadly surge and the need for more restrictive measures.

“Government should take the lead by immediately transitioning to remote work whenever possible,” he urged. “As long lines form at testing sites, it’s vital that we restore expanded testing infrastructure and empower New Yorkers across the state to test themselves by providing home testing kits.”

Williams said he was “grateful” that New York City has taken this step, urging New York State to “replicate and expand on it by directly sending tests to households.”

In addition to strengthening mask protocols, the public advocate urged New York State to adopt the city’s policy of vaccine screenings for indoor venues, “which has been extremely successful and should already have been expanded by this point.

“I know that this moment is distressing, but we are not in March of 2020; we have the knowledge and the tools to protect ourselves and our communities that we didn’t back then,” Williams said. “We just need to learn the lessons of the failures at that time, and prevent them from recurring now.”

Over the weekend, another Caribbean American legislator abruptly closed her Brooklyn office amid “an outbreak of COVID-19.”

“I regret to inform you that my office is currently experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, and we will have to close for the foreseeable future,” said New York Assembly Member Diana C. Richardson, the daughter of St. Martin and Aruban immigrants, in an email message to constituents.

“I have instructed everyone to quarantine, and we are reaching out to anyone we have come in contact with this week,” added the representative for the 43rd Assembly District in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in the heart of the Caribbean community.

“My constituents always come first; so, hopefully, we can return to work as soon as possible,” continued Richardson without identifying any staffer who contracted the disease or how they contracted it.

Richardson also did not indicate whether she had contracted the virus.

“This is also a reminder to all of us that COVID-19 is still a risk and to remain vigilant,” she said. “Please stay safe and healthy, wear a mask, and please get vaccinated.”

Last Friday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places, unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

The governor said this “a major action” to address the winter surge, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide, and to be in alignment with the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission.

Hochul said this determination is also based on the State’s weekly seven-day case rate, as well as increasing hospitalizations.

She said the new business and venue requirements, which extend to both patrons and staff, went into effect on Monday until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate, based on current conditions.

“The new measure brings added layers of mitigation during the holidays when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering and visiting holiday-themed destinations,” said the governor in a statement. “As governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy.

“The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season,” she added. “We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet.

“I want to thank the more than 80 percent of adult New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated,” Hochul continued. “If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.”

She said she had warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, stating that “now we are at that point, based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas.”

Since the Thanksgiving holiday in November, the governor said statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43 percent and hospitalizations have increased by 29 percent.

She said while the percentage of New Yorkers fully vaccinated continues to increase—gaining 2 percent from Thanksgiving weekend to now—the uptick is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage.

On Thursday, the New York Governor said 237,596 vaccine doses were administered over last the last 24 hours and that there were 53 COVID-19 deaths statewide on Wednesday.

“This is a public health crisis,” declared Hochul in a statement. “We must not make light of the winter surge that we are facing, and we should continue to encourage everyone we know to get vaccinated, get the booster and wear a mask.

“Let’s all get through this holiday season safely,” she urged. “There are testing sites and boosters widely available across the state in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones from getting seriously ill due to COVID- 19.”

On Dec. 6, New York City Mayor de Blasio announced major expansions to the “Key to NYC” program, the first-in-nation vaccination mandate for workers and customers at indoor dining, fitness, entertainment and performance venues.

Starting Dec. 14, the program requires children aged 5-11 to show proof of one vaccination dose for those venues.

On Dec. 27, New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The mayor also announced a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for private-sector workers.

The mandate, which will take effect on Dec. 27, applies to roughly 184,000 businesses.

In addition, the mayor announced that 5-11-year-old children will be required to get vaccinated to participate in high-risk extracurricular activities.

These activities include sports, band, orchestra, and dance. This requirement for the initial vaccine dose took effect on Dec. 14.

“New York City will not give a single inch in the fight against COVID-19,” said de Blasio, who will demit office on Dec. 31 because of the city’s term limit laws, which prohibit a mayor from holding office for no more than two successive, four-year terms.

“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe,” he added.

The mayor’s expansions follow recently announced vaccination mandates for city employees, childcare providers and non-public school employees.

De Blasio said 94 percent of the city workforce is vaccinated, and that nearly 6.5 million New Yorkers – including 89 percent of adults – have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams noted that health officials are “very carefully monitoring the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 virus in New York City, as well as in other locations,” adding that Gov. Hochul has declared a state of emergency as “a precautionary measure.”

“Vaccination, mindful social distancing, and vigilantly observing hygiene protocols continue to be the best forms of defense against the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” said Adams, who will become the second Black Mayor of New York City, when he takes office on Jan. 1, 2022. The city’s first Black mayor was the late David Dinkins.

“My office will continue to update you on the latest pandemic-related developments and protocols,” promised Adams in an email message to New Yorkers.

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