Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gave an impassioned speech Thursday morning, blasting the Senate for passing a $2 trillion stimulus package with extensive aid efforts for corporations. AOC’s blistering rebuke of the coronavirus economic aid package pointedly referenced the struggles the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to her home district in New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.
“I represent one of the hardest-hit communities in the hardest-hit city in this country, Queens, New York,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Thirteen dead in a night in Elmhurst Hospital alone. Our community’s reality is this country’s future if we don’t do anything. Hospital workers do not have protective equipment. We don’t have the necessary ventilators. But we have to go into this vote eyes wide open.”
Elmhurst Hospital in Queens not only lost 13 patients to COVID-19 in 24 hours, but there are lines for coronavirus testing that stretch down the block. Historically, the Elmhurst neighborhood has been heavily Latinx, which is notable as a Pew Research poll released this week showed the Latinx community is more concerned over the coronavirus’s health and finance ramifications than any other group.
The issues at Elmhurst Hospital are part of the city’s larger struggles to manage the outbreak: The Associated Press reported Thursday that a New York City nurse died from the coronavirus. Meanwhile, a viral photo captured medical workers without proper hospital gowns and wearing garbage bags instead.
AOC was also blistering in her condemnation of the bill’s corporate relief.
“What did the Senate majority fight for? One of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings [attached] as possible in American history. Shameful!” she said. “The greed of that fight is wrong for crumbs, for our families, and the option that we have to is to either let them suffer with nothing or to allow this greed and billions of dollars, which will be leveraged into trillions of dollars, to contribute to the largest income inequality gap in our future. There should be shame about what was fought for in this bill and the choices that we have to make.”
Ocasio-Cortez reiterated on the House floor what she’s been demanding for days, which is that medical personnel need protective gear and equipment now. Last week on CNN, she urged President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act, which compels companies to mass-produce medical supplies and equipment, warning that not doing so would “cost lives.” In a Fox News interview last night, President Trump responded by calling AOC a “little grandstander.”