At least one New York congressman is taking to heart a request from the White House coronavirus response coordinator that anyone who has recently left New York should self-quarantine for 14 days.
“Starting today, I’m totally shut down – and I will be totally shut down,” Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat told CNN by phone on Tuesday from New York City.
“We need to save America,” Espaillat said. “So shut it down, shut America down.”
Dr. Deborah Birx said at a White House press briefing earlier in the day that “because of the rate of the number of cases” in New York, people who have been in the metro area may have been exposed to coronavirus before they left.
Birx said that about 56% of all US cases and 60% of “all the new cases are coming out of the metro New York area.”
CNN reached out to every New York member of the House of Representatives about whether they would comply with the recommendations, while the Senate stayed in Washington to work on the $2 trillion economic stimulus legislation. Only Espaillat and Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks responded. A spokesman for Meeks said, “He’s in his district, mostly quarantined except for when he goes to his office. Following the Governor’s orders!”
On CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that he’ll decide whether to return to New York or stay in Washington after the Senate passes the economic stimulus package.
“I’ll have to take stock after we pass this bill,” Schumer said.
Espaillat, who represents upper Manhattan and part of the Bronx, called on New Yorkers to stay in their homes for at least two weeks.
“And I hope that the country shuts down so we can beat this thing,” Espaillat said.
“This is the epicenter of the pandemic and my people are scared,” he later said.
The two-term congressman said he had already stocked his residence with provisions and had taken efforts to self-quarantine but had occasionally gone out to do his job, including checking out a new drive-through test site.
He said he’d wait on instructions from the House on how he’d vote on a massive economic stimulus plan, the text of which lawmakers and administration officials are hoping to finalize soon. Espaillat said he’s had numerous conversations about the legislation, including with the House Democratic Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Espaillat also said he’s hearing “very scary stuff” from the hospitals in his district, which he said includes New York Presbyterian, Mount Sinai, Montefiore, Harlem and Metropolitan hospitals.
“They don’t have the ventilators,” he said. “They don’t have the protective equipment. They’re bursting through the seams. They’re getting ready to panic right now. This is the week that will determine what kind of a turn this pandemic takes in the United States.”
“This is crunch time,” he added. “If we don’t get the help that we need right now, our health care system could collapse.”
Vernoica Stracqualursi, Haley Byrd and Ali Zaslav contributed to this story.