“We should not have to rely on private donors for face masks and other supplies,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim in Flushing last week. “The state should pay for that.”
Kim and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi also want to loosen the requirement that money from the fund can only be accessed with the declaration of an executive order.
“There needs to be a way for legislators to access that fund,” said Hevesi.
The elected officials were speaking at an event updating the community on the virus in New York City, and what precautions residents should take if they think they have novel coronavirus.
Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for Disease Control at the Health Department, said New Yorkers should actually be more concerned about influenza, which kills thousands each year.
He said the steps you should take to protect yourself against the flu are the same for the coronavirus, such as regularly washing your hands and sneezing into your sleeve or crook of your elbow rather than your hand.
“There is no need to wear a mask or limit your travel,” Daskalakis said. “The only thing you need to know is that if you are not feeling well, get help.”
However, he did say that if you recently returned from Hubei Province in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, it is advisable to avoid public places for 14 days.
“Another important difference is that if you’ve been to China or have had contact with coronavirus, call your doctor or clinic before you go so they can prepare,” Daskalakis said.
Health officials also expressed frustration that some pharmacies in the Flushing area were taking advantage of fears about the virus to charge exorbitant prices for face masks. One store on Union Street was recently spotted selling a 20-pack of n95 masks for $120.
They also expressed concerns that Chinese residents were being singled out as carrying and spreading the virus, leading to acts of discrimination and xenophobia.
“There are too many attacks on social media,” said Kim. “This is not doing anyone any service.”
“It’s not dangerous because of the virus,” added Hevesi, “it’s dangerous because of the misinformation.”
Following the update, Kim led the first meeting of the new Asian American Health Advisory Council, which will focus on community health and concerns.
“Its members will meet on a monthly basis to proactively offer public health policy recommendations and advocate for relevant legislative priorities," Kim said.