The total number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases in New York City is now well over 670,000; that’s more than one of every thirteen New Yorkers citywide.
At least 160,000 of those cases were identified in Brooklyn. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that our borough’s elected officials have been among those exposed to the disease. And even with the vaccine rollout finally underway, their numbers have grown in recent weeks: in total, seven elected officials from Brooklyn have tested positive for the virus.
Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, announced on Twitter last week that he and his wife Leigh had tested positive for the virus. In a statement to Bklyner, Brannan speculated that the various new, more contagious strains now spreading across the country (and, officially as of today, across the city) may have played a role.
“I was running around the city like a nut delivering PPE supplies and food back in March, April, and May and I never got sick,” Brannan said. “Look, this thing is not over, and no one should let their guard down. You don’t have to hide in fear from COVID but you need to learn how to live with it safely and responsibly. Wear a mask, get tested, avoid crowds, use your head. ”
Brannan had initially described his symptoms as “very mild,” but the illness evidently evolved into something much more intense: “a cross between Robert Johnson and a warped My Bloody Valentine cassette,” in Brannan’s words.
He said he has worked from home throughout his illness, spent time with his two greyhounds, and watched “existential dread true crime” shows on Netflix. He also said he was grateful to be weathering the disease with stable housing, pay and healthcare.
“So many of our essential workers do not have the same protections, and yet they are the ones affording us the chance to stay safe at home,” he said. “That is a travesty and I’m going to keep fighting to ensure all of our essential workers get what they deserve.”
About two weeks earlier, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who represents a swath of Brooklyn running from Brownsville and Crown Heights to Sunset Park, shared on Twitter that he had been discharged from the hospital after what was apparently a challenging bout with the disease.
“Get tested. Wear a mask. Be safe,” Myrie wrote. His office did not respond to a request for further comment on his experience.
Brannan and Myrie were just the latest elected officials to wrangle with the disease. Back in March, when COVID was first sweeping through the city, two Brooklyn Assembly Members, Helene Weinstein and Charles Barron, were diagnosed with the virus. Days later, Barron’s wife, City Council Member Inez Barron, revealed she had also contracted it.
While Weinstein and Inez’s cases were not severe, Charles was briefly admitted to Brookdale Hospital’s ICU, he told Amsterdam News, for symptoms including pneumonia and shortness of breath.
“It was really, really tough,” Barron said. He said he used an oxygen and heartbeat reader, among other tools, to monitor his health once he arrived home.
Near the end of that month, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who represents parts of northern and western Brooklyn, was diagnosed with a presumed coronavirus infection just days after sharing a podium with other representatives during the debate over federal economic stimulus.
Velázquez said in a statement at the time that her symptoms were mild, including a fever, upset stomach and a loss of taste and smell. She said she was self-isolating and encouraged New Yorkers to “stay at home and continue practicing social distancing.”
Later in 2020, in July, North Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar tested positive for the virus. She wrote on Twitter that she had “a mild case, just recovering at home and self-isolating to be safe.”