March 17, 2021 By Christian Murray
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who is running for Queens Borough President, has tested positive for COVID-19 and believes that he contracted the virus while petitioning over the weekend.
Van Bramer said that he was tested for the virus Monday and got word Tuesday that he was infected. He said that he was also tested last Thursday, when the results came back negative.
“I didn’t do any public facing events on Friday but was doing a lot of petitioning on Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “I must have come into contact with hundreds of people.”
Van Bramer said he was gathering signatures in Sunnyside, Jackson Heights and Forest Hills over the weekend—as he needs 1,200 signatures to get on the ballot.
“We now have three times that—but we’re shooting for 5,000 because I am not the machine candidate,” he said. Candidates, he said, who have not been endorsed by the Queens County Democratic party–dubbed the machine–tend to have the validity of their signatures challenged to get them off the ballot.
Donovan Richards, the current borough president, seeks reelection and won the party’s endorsement.
Van Bramer, who said that he has been tested 19 times for COVID in the past year, said he was wearing two masks over the weekend. He said that he has been very cautious about contracting COVID-19, given his job and how he looks after his 81-year-old mother three days a week.
“I have taken a lot of precautions over the last year and have tested a lot,” Van Bramer said. He said that he was disappointed to get the diagnosis now, since public-facing government workers have recently just become eligible to get the vaccine.
Van Bramer said he will be doing his council work remotely and will continue with his campaign for borough president. He said that he is asymptomatic and will be in discussion with his doctor today as to quarantining.
The councilmember said that he is likely the victim of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision that candidates gather signatures to get on the ballot.
He and a number of candidates filed an unsuccessful lawsuit last month calling for the signature requirement to be dropped due to the risk to public safety stemming from COVID-19.
Van Bramer said that the number of signatures required was dropped by 70 percent due to COVID but argued that the Cuomo administration insisted that petitioning was still required.
“The governor–who I think has blood on his hands on so many levels in respect to COVID–made a political decision [to keep petitioning] and has played with people’s lives,” Van Bramer said.
He said that by requiring the signatures, it provided the machine with an opportunity to get candidates struck off the ballot.
Van Bramer said thousands of people have been petitioning over the last two weeks and it involves close contact. It requires stopping people, chatting with them and then handing them the clip board and pen to sign.
“Across the city, there must have been hundreds of thousands of interactions,” he said.
Van Bramer, however, remains hopeful that he will remain asymptomatic.
“I was in perfect health when I had my last physical,” he said. However, “there have been much younger people in good health that have got very, very sick so I’m taking it day by day.”