Long Island Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin accused Gov. Kathy Hochul of mishandling the latest coronavirus outbreak — citing long lines, closings and chaos at over-run COVID-19 testing sites amid a record spike in new cases.
“We need to light a fire under [Hochul]. This has been utter incompetence,” Zeldin said during a remote press conference jointed by other Republican lawmakers.
“We should not have been here on Dec. 30 having to play catch up,” said Zeldin.
He talked about confusion about different hours at testing sites across the state.
Zeldin said he would adopt “uniform testing hours” at state-run sites and expand testing hours.
On Wednesday, 336,469 New Yorkers were tested — with 74,207 or 22 percent testing positive — the highest rate since April 24, 2020, during the initial more deadly COVID outbreak when testing was more limited.
Zeldin, the GOP leadership’s favored candidate for governor to take on Hochul next year, criticized the Democratic governor for focusing on vaccine mandates for health care workers instead of testing.
He complained about “firing, fines, threats, mandates.”
The congressman particular slammed the firing of health care workers who refused to comply with the mandate to get vaccinated and turning “heroes into zeroes.”
“Kathy Hochul exacerbated what was already a dire staffing issue here in our state,” he said.
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Hochul defended the vaccine mandate as necessary to help protect vulnerable patients and the medical workforce in nursing homes and hospitals.
“These health care workers should have testing options available to them. These health care workers who have been fired should be given an opportunity to help,” Zeldin said.
Testing operators such as CityMD have closed sites because they don’t have the staff to operate them.
“Meanwhile we have health care workers inside this state who are able to assist. But the governor of this state is saying ‘no,’ Zeldin said.
Zeldin also said he would tap funds from New York State’s $4 billion budget surplus — largely as a result of federal COVID and boost in revenues from tax increases approved in Albany earlier this year — to buy more tests and expand testing at transit hubs.
During the press briefing, state Senate Minority Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) noted he was mailed received four COVID testing kits.
“I am not going to accept the testing kits when my constituents can’t get them,” he said.
Other participants included New York City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli, Senator Peter Oberacker and Assembly members Colin Schmitt, Jodi Giglio, and Jarett Gandolfo.
A rep for Hochul rebutted the zingers from Zeldin as hogwash.
“Even before the first day the Omicron variant was discovered in New York, Governor Hochul has been warning of a winter surge for months and leading aggressive efforts to protect New Yorkers,” said Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays.
She said the initiatives include “taking action to boost hospital capacity and address staffing issues, deploying vaccine pop-up sites and millions of tests across the state, launching new incentives for the vaccine hesitant and robust booster campaigns, and staying in constant communication with local partners to provide support on the ground.”