Clarke: Practice coronavirus recommended precautions

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Nelson A. King

As New York City mourns the first death caused by coronavirus (COVID19), Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke is urging nationals to practice recommended precautions by health care experts and professionals.

“Now more than ever, it is important that our community practices the recommended precautions instructed by health care experts and professionals,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, said on Saturday. “COVID19 is a respiratory disease that can spread person to person.

“People can become infected when the respiratory droplets are transferred by sneezing or coughing,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “I encourage my constituents to practice social distancing, refrain from going to large gatherings and continuously wash their hands thoroughly.”

Clarke said the deceased patient, an elderly woman, with emphysema, was considered at-risk.

She had been in critical condition since her diagnosis as one of New York City’s first coronavirus patients, the congresswoman said.

“I can’t thank the doctors, nurses and staff at Wyckoff Medical Center and throughout the city enough for the measures taken to protect and heal our community during this dreadful time,” said Clarke, referring to  the 350-bed teaching hospital in the Wyckoff Heights section of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

She said the US Congress is “working tirelessly on legislation that will help support individuals and families whose lives are being put on hold by the preventative measures to stop coronavirus.”

In her capacity as Vice Chair of the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce  Committee, which oversees the health subcommittee, and her role as a member of the House’s Homeland Security Committee, Clarke said she has been “on the forefront to ensure coronavirus is getting the attention it needs through federal legislation.”

She said she voted last week the Coronavirus Supplemental Package to allocate US$8.3 billion in discretionary spending to aid in the development of vaccines, research, equipment and state and local health budgets.

“Thankfully, this supplemental package passed both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and was signed into law by the president,” she said.

Clarke said the Atlanta, Ga-headquartered Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still determining how these funds will be allocated among CDC operations and to states, including New York.

She said this money will support improved surveillance for coronavirus; laboratory testing to detect positive cases; contact tracing to identify additional positive cases; infection control at the local level, including public awareness campaigns to prevent additional cases; and US$490 million to ensure Medicare payments for telehealth, so elderly patients “can consult doctors remotely.”

Medicare is   a national health insurance program begun in 1966 under the Social Security Administration (SSA) and now administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

It primarily provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older, but also for some younger people with disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration, as well as people with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Clarke said she is also an original co-sponsor of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure free testing for COVID-19, 14 days of paid emergency sick leave, additional funding for Medicaid, three months of paid family and medical leave, as well as expanded unemployment insurance and food security.

Medicaid is a federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. Medicaid also offers benefits not normally covered by Medicare, including nursing home care and personal care services.

Clarke said the Coronavirus Response Act is “crucial legislation” that has passed in the House of Representatives, adding that, “for our county’s health and well-being, I implore the Senate to follow suit.”

“I will continue to play an active role in the coming days, weeks and months to ensure that we’re taking necessary action to best handle the coronavirus,” the congresswoman assured.