Bed-Stuy Councilman Robert Cornegy Reveals Coronavirus Battle
Robert Cornegy said he lost 36 friends and family members to COVID-19 as he battled the virus himself over the last month.
By Matt Troutman, Patch Staff
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, BROOKLYN — A prominent Brooklyn politician recently reemerged in the public eye after a month-long battle with the new coronavirus.
Councilman Robert C. Cornegy, Jr. fell ill on March 13 — the cusp of New York City’s outbreak — after delivering food to seniors in his district, the Bed-Stuy lawmaker said in a recent Facebook video.
Cornegy said he received an official COVID-19 diagnosis shortly after submitting to about two weeks of self-quarantined so as not to affect or infect anyone else.
The disease progressed during that time and he watched from isolation as it ravaged the city, his family and friends, Cornegy said.
“I will personally admit to my Facebook family that I have lost 36 friends and family members since the onset of COVID-19,” Cornegy said.
“Think about that — 36 people — in various portions of my life. Athletes that I’ve played college basketball with, judges that I’ve had the opportunity to be responsible for them seated on the bench, seniors.”
Cornegy, who represents Bed-Stuy and part of Crown Heights, is one of Brooklyn’s most prominent politicians. He’s currently running for borough president — a post currently held by Eric Adams, a likely mayoral candidate who has been all but ubiquitous during the coronavirus crisis.
The pair appeared together Thursday during an event at a Crown Heights nursing home. Cornegy, wearing a mask, eluded to his relative absence from the public eye and service.
“Many of you know that I was sick with the virus,” he said. “As I laid in my bed and watched television, I was excited to watch the work and I couldn’t wait to get back out here.”
About the time Cornegy said he fell ill, he was touting an effort with The Campaign Against Hunger food pantry to deliver food to seniors.
The pantry since then first struggled to catch up with demand as the outbreak spread but eventually saw its stocks swell thanks to donations. It had visits from Adams and Mayor Bill de Blasio, but Cornegy stayed out of the spotlight.
Turns out Cornegy was like many New Yorkers — cooped up at home and uncertain about what happens next.
Isolation and social distancing can take a toll on mental health, he said. He discussed those impacts in his community and among people of color during the video.
“There’s a disease that’s ravaging physically but there’s also a disease mentally that is really putting pressure and anxiety and stress, whether it’s the stress of losing a job, whether it’s the stress of taking care of a loved one or whether it’s the stress and anxiety of not knowing whether or not you actually have the disease,” he said. “It’s really difficult for people, especially for people of color who don’t necessarily access mental health services generally and now are finding themselves with this compound stress on them and not knowing what to do.”
Cornegy goes on to outline some tips for dealing with mental health amid the outbreak. His office didn’t return a call for further comment on his diagnosis.