New York political figures infected by the coronavirus

On Oct. 2, President Donald Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Oct. 2, President Donald Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the coronavirus.
Official White House photo by Sheelah Craighead
On Oct. 2, President Donald Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the coronavirus.

New York political figures infected by the coronavirus

A growing number of local politicians have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
October 2, 2020

On Oct. 2, President Donald Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the coronavirus and will begin quarantining.

Reports indicated that the president recently began experiencing mild symptoms of the virus but is “in good spirits.” The news followed an announcement that one of the president’s top aides, Hope Hicks, had contracted the virus.

Here are some prominent political New Yorkers who have also tested positive for the virus or have been diagnosed with the illness.

Rick Cotton & Betsy Smith: On March 9, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had contracted the coronavirus. Cotton, who is in charge of the region’s airports, bus terminals and tunnels, was one of the most high-profile public officials to test positive in the early stages of the outbreak. Cuomo suggested that Cotton might have been exposed while on the job at JFK Airport. On March 26, Cotton announced that he and his wife, Central Park Conservancy President and CEO Betsy Smith, who also tested positive, had recovered

Charles Barron & Inez Barron: On March 14, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie tweeted that Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron had tested positive for the coronavirus, one of the first state lawmakers to do so. A week later, Barron’s wife, New York City Councilwoman Inez Barron announced that she too had contracted the virus. While the 69-year-old assemblyman had to be hospitalized, he told the Amsterdam News in mid-March: “I am going to beat this virus just as I have won so many other victories, especially with the love of my life, my wife Inez, cheering me on.” Assemblyman Barron has since been released from the hospital and is at home with his family. 

Helene Weinstein: When he tweeted the news about Charles Barron, Heastie said that Assemblywoman and Ways and Means Committee Chair Helene Weinstein had also tested positive for the virus. Shortly after the announcement, Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairwoman Rodneyse Bichotte said she had been in contact with Weinstein and that the lawmaker was in good shape.

Ritchie Torres: After experiencing symptoms for several days and learning that a senior staff member had tested positive, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres tweeted that he had tested positive for the coronavirus on March 16. The first member of the City Council to test positive, he is now symptom free, though he said in early April that he is still anxious about leaving his Bronx apartment, where he has been self-isolating. 

Kimberly Jean-Pierre: On March 19, Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre became the third state lawmaker to test positive for the coronavirus, but she assured constituents that she was doing well and that she will continue to work remotely from home. 

Brian Miller: On March 20,two days after being in the state Capitol to vote on a paid sick leave bill, Assemblyman Brian Miller, a Republican representing the Catskills, became the fourth state lawmaker to test positive for the coronavirus. The assemblyman was hospitalized in St. Luke’s Hospital in Utica following his diagnosis. 

Melinda Katz: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz tested positive after learning on March 21 that she had been exposed to someone with the coronavirus. After a few days of a low-grade fever, the former Queens borough president said she is no longer experiencing any symptoms. 

Mark Levine: On March 23, New York City Councilman and Health Committee Chairman Mark Levine tweeted that he was experiencing coronavirus symptoms, namely a fever and a dry cough. Levine has emerged as a staunch advocate for preserving test kits for those most in need, saying that he would not be seeking a test for himself and would instead shelter at home.

John Miller: On March 27, NY1 reported that John Miller, the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism chief, had tested positive for the virus

Johnny Lee Baynes: New York Supreme Court 2nd Judicial District Judge Johnny Lee Baynes, who worked in Brooklyn, died of COVID-19 complications on March 26 at 64 years old.

Pat Foye: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on March 28 that its leader, Pat Foye, has tested positive for coronavirus. A spokesperson said he was isolating at home but “"feeling good and maintaining his full schedule."

Nydia Velazquez: On March 30,Rep. Nydia Velázquez was diagnosed with a presumed coronavirus infection only a few days after sharing a podium and microphone with other U.S. representatives during the debate on the $2 trillion stimulus bill. She said in a statement that her symptoms are mild and that she is self-isolating. She encouraged others to “stay at home and continue practicing social distancing.”

James Seward: State Sen. James Seward and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30. It was originally reported that Seward, who is also battling bladder cancer, had a mild case of the virus and was expected to leave Albany Medical Center shortly. According to Seward’s wife, for a while his condition was critical and he was on a ventilator in a medically-induced coma, but the state senator has since left Albany Medical Center and has continued recuperating at home. 

Chris Cuomo: Host of CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” – and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s younger brother – became one of the most high-profile individuals to test positive for COVID-19 when he announced the news on March 31.

Paul Vallone: On April 1, New York City Councilman Paul Vallone posted on Facebook that he had tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms. He said thaI he feels blessed “to have had manageable symptoms” and to already be on the “road to recovery.”

Barry Grodenchik: On April 2, New York City Councilman Barry Grodenchik became the latest politician who tested positive for the coronavirus. He said in a tweet that he had been self-isolating since March 14 and had no contact with anyone besides family members since that date. 

Costa Constantinides: On April 10, Queens borough president candidate, Costa Constantinides took to Twitter to announce that his wife Lori, who is diabetic and in need of a kidney transplant, had been hospitalized for the coronavirus after he experienced mild symptoms the week before.

Noach Dear: New York Supreme Court judge and former New York City Council Member Noach Dear died of COVID-19 complications on April 19. He was 66 years old.

James Skoufis: State Sen. James Skoufis tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced on April 24, just three days after first experiencing symptoms of the virus. Skoufis reported that he had nearly every symptom of the illness and said that it was “the sickest I’ve ever felt in my life.” The state senator had made a full recovery by early May and said that experiencing the virus reinforced his position on reopening the state based on the opinions of public health experts and not for the sake of the economy.

Julia Salazar: On July 2, the state senator announced that she had contracted the virus. Salazar said she had been experiencing mild symptoms of the virus, which led her to get tested, and began quarantining after receiving her results. She has since made a full recovery from the virus.

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Jana Cholakovska
is an editorial intern at City & State.
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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