- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2020

New York City officials assigned to trace COVID-19’s path will not ask people if they have attended demonstrations tied to Black Lives Matter, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed.

Avery Cohen, the spokesperson, told the website THE CITY that if people volunteer information about attending rallies that will become part of their file but “no person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest.”

New York City and its environs comprise the hardest hit circle in the U.S. when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus that originated last year in Wuhan, China. The city had 206,606 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday night, and had attributed 22,103 deaths to the virus, accounting for almost 72% of the state’s 30,822 deaths.

Officials like Mr. de Blasio who have staunchly advocated sweeping economic restrictions for months in response to the coronavirus have struggled to explain why massive demonstrations are not subject to the same rules.

In general, they argue the importance of identifying “systemic racism” and advocating for its abolition are more important than an individual’s economic well-being.

Earlier this month, the city council’s health committee chairman, Mark Levine, tweeted, “Let’s be clear about something: if there is a spike in coronavirus cases in the next two weeks, don’t blame the protestors. Blame racism.”

The goal of contact tracing is to map all the intersections in which a person testing positive for COVID-19 could have potentially infected others. In May, Mr. de Blasio said his office would hire 1,000 people to carry out the contact tracing interviews.

The mayor has been accused of double standards throughout his response to the coronavirus, charges that surfaced before George Floyd died in police custody over Memorial Day weekend. In particular, religious groups have said Mr. de Blasio has singled them out for particularly onerous restrictions, and lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Roman Catholics and Jewish worshippers.

Mr. de Blasio insists the events in question are not the same, and declared at a June 2 press conference that “400 years of American racism…is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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