WASHINGTON – Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) – Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee ranking member – today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Pandemic Response: Confronting the Unequal Impacts of COVID-19.”
Remarks as prepared below:
The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has already claimed half a million lives across the globe, and here in the United States, nowhere has been hit harder than New York. With over 32,000 deaths, my home state and District have been ravaged by this virus.
While there has been a vigorous federal, state, and local response, as our knowledge of the virus continues to mature, data has shown that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting certain communities. In an April Coronavirus Task Force briefing, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams acknowledged the increased risk of coronavirus to racial minority populations. The CDC states: “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age.”
It is important that we understand and recognize which communities coronavirus is affecting most severely so that we can rally behind our neighbors and support them as we work to overcome this pandemic together.
In May, I joined the New York Delegation on a call with the NAACP that focused on recovery from the pandemic with special emphasis on communities such as Wyandanch, North Amityville, Central Islip, and Brentwood. These communities with major minority populations have had far more coronavirus cases than most others in Long Island. I also joined colleagues in urging HHS to provide dedicated funding to community health centers which oftentimes serve as the primary care provider within communities of color.
Further, I was proud to cosponsor the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act, which creates a compensation fund for all essential workers and personnel who have been injured or impacted by COVID-19. As we virtually meet today, we must have greater appreciation for the suffering and sacrifice that our frontline workers face daily. Not only do police, firefighters, EMS workers, and healthcare workers put themselves in danger, but grocery store clerks, delivery workers, janitorial personnel, and transit workers risk their health and safety every day to serve the rest of us. And data highlights that minorities are disproportionately represented in essential frontline jobs, which increases their exposure to the virus.
I commend all the first responders, medical personnel, essential workers, and public health officials who have – and continue to – courageously put their lives on the line throughout this pandemic. I look forward to hearing from our panel today to understand more about the effects of the coronavirus and to possibly inform further work with the bipartisan Regional Recovery Task Force that I co-lead.