Councilman Ritchie Torres is on the mend nearly three weeks after he contracted COVID-19. Torres, the first member to have contracted the virus, was also the youngest. For now, he's taking it easy.
Torres—who in his first week suffered from chills, a dry cough, headaches, and fatigue—ranked his road to recovery as “manageable.” He wasn’t hospitalized, but instead adhered strictly to Governor Andrew Cuomo's stay-at-home orders, self-isolating inside his apartment, and improving his sleep regimen, getting a full 8 hours of rest.
“I was mostly resting, I took Tylenol because I had an excruciating headache. And I was resting more than usual because I felt unusually fatigued,” said Torres.
Torres announced he contracted the virus on March 17th. At that point, testing was limited, but because of Torres’s history of asthma and the fact that his chief of staff was confirmed to have COVID-19, he was administered a test.
He’s now symptom-free, yet Torres is not prepared to go outside, not even for some light exercise. In fact, given the city’s mandate that it will only test New Yorkers with full-blown COVID-19 symptoms, he’s considering several more weeks of self-isolation.
“I’m still apprehensive about going outside. I’m apprehensive about visiting my mother who at age 60 has chronic conditions,” said Torres. “It’s likely that I’m immune, but what if I’m wrong? When you’re carrying a deadly virus there’s no margin for error.”
Not that it’s kept him from carrying out his Council duties. Torres, whose 15th Council District covers chunks of Central Bronx, has been in touch with constituents, while sharing on-the-ground information on the virus in private tele-conferenced meetings with fellow legislators.
He’s also been monitoring reports out of St. Barnabas Hospital, where hospital personnel told Torres they face a shortage of ventilators and personal protection equipment. His ongoing conversations led him to believe that the national pandemic response has been “an embarrassment and indictment on government.” He pointed to countries such as South Korea as a model of inspiration for fighting the virus.
“The City Council needs to examine what went wrong,” said Torres, who chairs the Oversight & Investigations Committee, which has subpoena power. “What were the failures that led to the catastrophic outbreak of the novel coronavirus outbreak in New York City?”
Torres, a candidate for the South Bronx’s 15th Congressional District, where he’s raised the most money compared to his rivals in the race, concedes that his campaign has “come to a grinding halt.”
“The campaign has become an afterthought for me,” said Torres, who’s instead focusing on reaching out to constituents for regular check-ins.
“There’s no telling what the world has in store for us. What is a post-COVID-19 world going to look like?” said Torres. “We speak of a post-9/11 world. We’re going to enter a post-COVID-19 world.”