Among those who contracted the novel coronavirus was Councilman Costa Constantinides, who recounted his fight with the illness in a video call with friends and supporters last week.
The Astoria lawmaker said he first encountered symptoms on March 29. He was playing video games with his son when he was feeling hot, which turned out to be a 102-degree fever.
Though he did not have any issues with his lungs at the time, he developed a cough over the next few days. After trying to take an antibiotic to fight it off, Constantinides ended up in the hospital on April 5, when he was told he had pneumonia.
After returning home, he was cared for by friends, who he said brought him soup and chicken.
“I count myself lucky that I’m doing as well as I am,” he said.
Constantinides’s wife, Lori, also tested positive for COVID-19. She developed a 104-degree fever on April 1, and was eventually hospitalized for 12 days. At one point, Constantinides said, she was on oxygen and didn’t know where she was.
“It became a very scary moment in my home,” he said. “I was home alone with pneumonia. My little boy had been staying with his aunt.”
Since Lori came home on April 16, Constantinides said they have been quarantined in his mother-in-law’s basement and practicing social distancing. Although both of them are on the mend, the legislator said he still doesn’t feel 100 percent healed four weeks later.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, but we’re slowly making our way back. ” he said. “That’s all we can ask for.”
Constantinides also described his trips to the hospital. Though the first was “tame” and not so bad, his second trip to the hospital in early April was “very frightening.”
“There were beds everywhere,” he said. “There was not one bit of space that was not a bed where someone wasn’t ill.
“People were coming in there with ventilators, with pneumonia and shortness of breath,” he added. “It was nonstop.”
When asked how the city and state have handled the crisis, Constantinides said like the governor, he also wishes the government sounded the alarm earlier. He said it was “unbelievable” that they were still having conversations about closing schools in the middle of March.
“As an elected official, I take my share of the responsibility, we should have done more earlier,” he said. “We missed opportunities to keep a lot of people safe.”
Moving forward, the lawmaker said there are still challenges around food insecurity. He also raised concerns about not having enough testing, tracing and isolating, which he believes is the key to reopening the economy.
Constantinides said he was “unbelievably frustrated” by the lack of seriousness from people who continued to gather in Astoria Park to hang out or play group sports. He said if public spaces will be opened, they need to be done in a way where people are respecting social distancing rules.
“Right now, that’s not happening,” he said.
He noted that last July was the hottest month in recorded history. With beaches, pools and cooling centers likely closed, this summer will be tough as well.
“We’re going to have challenges,” Constantinides said.