U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik said Thursday that “New York is the epicenter of coronavirus,” and that she wants to start “cracking down” on people doing nonessential travel to New York’s 21st Congressional District.
Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said she believes leaders shouldn’t be putting “specific lines in the sand” for when the nationwide quarantine rules keeping everyone away from each other to avoid spreading COVID-19 should be lifted, saying new information should be considered every day.
However, on a conference call with NY-21 press she avoided discussing President Donald Trump’s repeated desire for an April 12 deadline for sending Americans in “large sections of the country” back to work. Trump has said he wants to pack churches again in time for Easter, which has been opposed by religious leaders and health care experts alike, who say this deadline is premature and dangerous.
“The president said that at some point we have to get back to work,” Stefanik said.
She did not address Trump’s Easter goal or say whether that date is too soon to begin gathering again.
Stefanik said public health should drive decisions, but that each locality and state will have different paths. While public health is the priority, there are also record numbers of Americans claiming unemployment and businesses struggling to stay alive.
“There is a significant economic hardship and as elected officials we have to tackle both issues,” Stefanik said.
“Is [Trump] listening well enough or hard enough to the doctors that are actually trying to give the best advice for the country?” Scott Atkinson from Channel 7 in Watertown asked.
Stefanik said doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have been at every White House press briefing and that Trump is “taking their advice very seriously.” Fauci and Birx have both missed several press briefings.
“In these times of public health crises you really have to look at the day-to-day data and understand where you are today rather than putting very specific lines in the sand,” Stefanik said.
Stefanik said the stock market is not her focus in making decisions, rather it is the small businesses, which she said are her “bread and butter and the economic engine of my district.”
“I represent my district and I’m focused on Main Street and small businesses,” Stefanik said.
Stefanik said New York is the epicenter of coronavirus now. The state has tested more individuals than any other state, and as of Thursday afternoon the U.S. leads the world in numbers of confirmed cases.
Stefanik said that New York needs more funding because of this high rate of cases. Specifically, she said the North Country needs more resources. She said she understands the need for supplies downstate, where the spread has been more severe, but she also said the North Country needs more ventilators.
Stefanik said she would rather not travel back to Washington, D.C., last Friday to vote on a $2 trillion emergency relief bill, adding that she is a strong supporter of Congress utilizing remote voting at times like this.
“I think when it’s a time of public health crisis we ought to be taking our own advice,” Stefanik said. “I think we’re going to look back on this from the U.S. Capitol’s perspective and say that we did not take it seriously enough.”
She said she did travel down there, staying in the car as much as possible. She said her and her husband Matt have been putting a lot of miles on the road the past few weeks.
“I’m very disturbed that members of the United States Senate were one of the only groups that had a large group lunch last week and now you see that there are positive [cases] of not just senators, but also senators’ family members,” Stefanik said.