Queens Lawmakers on the Move Nov. 10, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Gianaris Urges Free COVID Vaccines for All

Senator Michael Gianaris

Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris called on Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Boula to ensure immigrant and refugee communities are given free access to a covid-19 vaccine, pending it’s successful release. 

During a CNN interview today, Dr. Boula said the vaccine would be free to all United States citizens.

“Covid-19 does not discriminate, and neither should we as access to a vaccine grows closer,” said Gianaris. “Some of our hardest hit areas were Black and Brown communities and justice demands any vaccines are available to them. I urge Pfizer to remember all our neighbors and ensure their vaccinations are delivered at no cost to all who need them.”

Gianaris’ full letter to Dr. Boula appears below:

Albert Bourla, DVM, PhD

Chairman and CEO, Pfizer Inc.

235 East 42nd Street

New York, New York 10017

Dear Dr. Bourla,

         I write regarding your recent comments about the progress Pfizer, Inc. is making on a vaccine to address the covid-19 pandemic. While everyone is waiting with anticipation for a vaccine and a return to normalcy, your recent comments that the vaccine will be free to all American citizens raises an important question: will our refugee and immigrant neighbors (both documented and undocumented) be included in this distribution?

         In New York City, our Black and Brown communities – including many immigrant enclaves – were among the hardest hit by the pandemic. They are in serious need of relief and should be among the first areas to receive access to vaccines. The need for no-cost distribution is critical to their survival and I urge Pfizer to ensure that happens.

         As we learned over the last several months, this virus does not discriminate. We need to ensure all members of our society are protected against further spread and detrimental health consequences. Please advise how you will ensure these groups are also protected and will have just access to any vaccine distribution.

         Sincerely,

         Senator Michael Gianaris

         Deputy Majority Leader

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Federal Healthcare Funding

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday announced $6,284,101.33 in federal funding for Northwell Health Inc. 

The coronavirus pandemic at first overwhelmed New York’s hospitals – requiring increased clinical staffing services to meet patient demand and increased disinfection protocols. This funding will be used to cover the cost of 223,000 previous overtime hours for sanitization of facilities and medical care for COVID-19 patients.

“I’m proud to deliver these federal funds to help cover the massive costs of increased protective measures and staffing needed to care for COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic,” said Schumer. “We must continue to support our local hospitals and health centers as we work to slow the spread of coronavirus and recover from this health and economic crisis. I will continue to prioritize the safety of our health care workers and staffing in our health care facilities to meet patient demand when fighting for federal funding.”

“As the pandemic continues into the winter months, health care providers need access to equipment that will keep themselves and the communities they serve, safe,” said Gillibrand. “This federal funding will equip Northwell Health Inc. with the medical and cleaning supplies and staffing resources necessary to increase safety and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Funding like this will help New York’s health care professionals keep our communities safe during this unprecedented health crisis.”  

Northwell Health, Inc. is New York’s largest health care provider and played a critical role in executing New York State’s COVID-19 testing plan early in the pandemic. Northwell has continued providing world class medical care in the face of extreme challenges and this funding will help them continue their great work for New York’s patients. This Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding is authorized under Section 403 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

AG James Defends ACA on Eve of Supreme Court Oral Arguments

State Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday continued her strong defense of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) ahead of Tuesday’s oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court in the health care repeal case, California v. Texas. 

James and a coalition that includes 20 states and the District of Columbia are defending the many provisions of the ACA — including coverage of preexisting conditions, public health investments, and Medicaid expansion, among others — against the Trump Administration and a Texas-led state coalition seeking to dismantle the health care reform law that has provided new coverage to at least 20 million Americans. The Trump Administration and the Texas-led state coalition’s actions are even more dangerous given their attempts to strip health care coverage away from millions of Americans as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) deaths and infections — which hit numerous highs last week — continue to rise exponentially across the nation.

“For years, Donald Trump and Republicans across the country have tried to repeal the ACA and strip health coverage away from millions of Americans, but we will continue to fight this assault on our health care,” said James. “Even more dangerous is that this attack comes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 237,000 Americans and infected more than 10 million. That’s 10 million Americans who now have a pre-existing condition and who Republicans want to charge more for coverage. Eight years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA was legal, so we will not allow President Trump and his Republican allies to dismantle the ACA, piece-by-piece, or undo all the progress made since the law’s passage after failing to get Congress to do its dirty work.”

In addition to New York, the coalition arguing before the Supreme Court tomorrow includes the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the governor of Kentucky.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments remotely on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, at 10 a.m. EST.

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