Viewpoint: Blakeman puts politics over science in health care

Viewpoint: Blakeman puts politics over science in health care

The COVID Omnicron BA4 and 5 variants are surging in New York City and Long Island, infecting even those who are boosted and who have already had COVID, but you would never know it from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Blakeman would rather promote his “Nassau County is Back” concert on July 30, inviting thousands to Eisenhower Park (unmasked, not socially distanced).

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nassau’s longtime health commissioner, Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, is resigning as of July 29, after serving in his role since 2011.

And an examination of how Blakeman is handling the renewed surge of a COVID variant, along with a worrisome outbreak of Monkeypox, is significant because of who will take Eisenstein’s place.

It is entirely possible that Eisenstein is being forced out – by his own ethics because he is being muzzled from telling Nassau County residents to put their masks back on when going indoors or into crowded situations or being pushed out by Blakeman because he refuses to politicize health.

The situation is reminiscent of what happened in January, when the Omnicron variant was surging just as Blakeman took office, and immediately issued executive orders contradicting the state’s mask mandates.

That prompted Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams to write an angry letter to Eisenstein: “We do not see how you can legitimately continue to function in your position of trust as Nassau County’s health commissioner.”

Apparently Dr. Eisenstein agreed, so he resigned and now, in the tradition of his supreme leader, Trump, Blakeman can appoint a lackey who will do his political bidding. (Efforts to get comment from County Executive Blakeman and Dr. Eisenstein were unsuccessful.)


According to New York State data (which is still being reported), Long Island has a seven-day average of cases at 46.44 per 100,000, second highest in the state after New York City, which is at 49.89 (no surprise given the proximity).

This compares to a statewide seven-day average of 36.54 (which is being pulled up by New York City and Long Island); for comparison, the Capitol Region’s seven-day average was 20.30. More data that should be relevant: 9.08% percent of the state’s reported cases are positive, patient hospitalizations rose by 63 to 2,460, with 506 patients newly admitted.

Just on July 13, Nassau County reported 786 new cases (totaling 464,264 residents who have had COVID), while Suffolk had 746 new cases for a total of 480,009. New York City on that day had 5,611 new cases for a total of 2,617,475.

Nassau on that day had three deaths out of the 14 statewide (bringing the total for New Yorkers who died from COVID to 56,740.)

Of significance, too, is that even those who experience a mild case of COVID can come down with debilitating and unknown effects of Long COVID (numerous diseases that emerge, like MS, are latent from earlier illness). Long COVID has potentially affected up to 23 million Americans, pushing an estimated 1 million people out of work, and one in five American adults (or one in 13 adults, 7.5%, altogether) are experiencing Long COVID.

Are you hearing Blakeman caution residents to wear a mask indoors or in crowded situations (as New York City is doing)? Be sure they are boosted? Urging parents to get their toddlers vaccinated? Nah.

What is Blakeman really, really concerned about? Car thefts. Easing residents’ concern over shark attacks (it’s OK to go back into the water!). Lithium batteries. Toys for Tots for Ukrainian refugees.

You know what else Blakeman could care less about? Monkeypox, perhaps because so far it mainly has impacted gay and bisexual men, and any compassion for this community would likely infuriate his rightwing religious base who gave him his narrow election win.

Meanwhile, the Nassau County Legislature Minority (that is, Democrats), sent letters pleading for the county to do something about Monkeypox.

By contrast, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new SMS-text notification effort to deliver the latest monkeypox information directly to New Yorkers. (Sign up for text messages—which will include alerts about cases, symptoms, spread, and resources for testing and vaccination—by texting “MONKEYPOX” to 81336 or “MONKEYPOXESP” for texts in Spanish).The state is working with the CDC’s Monkeypox Response Team on vaccine distribution plans. s://

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “In public health, information is one of our most valuable tools.”

Blakeman’s policy is to have an information blackout.

Heaven forbid Nassau County will be hit with another pandemic before a vaccine and treatment is found. Blakeman would likely ignore it completely believing (falsely) that the county’s economy and budget will be immunized if he does nothing but let residents get sick.

Abrahams has urged the Blakeman administration to let the next county health commissioner do the job “without interference,” saying “medical science — not political science — must guide all decisions that impact the health and wellness of Nassau County residents,” Newsday reported.

Right now, Blakeman has been able to keep his head in the sand and evade responsibility because the COVID vaccine which the Biden administration made readily available has been keeping people from hospitalization and death in the horrifying numbers of 2020 (though impact of Long COVID on the health care system and economy is still to be determined). But the BA.5 surge shows the limits of vaccine protections.

What happens when there isn’t a vaccine or treatment sufficient to protect against a new variant or new pandemic? What will Blakeman do then? Will he force workers into unsafe conditions as the Trump administration did to Midwest meat packers (who died by the hundreds) and Red State governors did when they canceled unemployment benefits to those who needed to stay home? Will he ban corporations from requiring workers be vaccinated or wear masks as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did? Will he force children and teachers into schools without protection as Texas Governor Greg Abbott did?

It gets to the point that we can’t trust Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman to keep residents safe if it butts up against his politics.

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