A new Long Island congressman is boycotting a reception with President Biden Tuesday night to protest the White House’s lingering COVID-19 protocols.
Republican Rep. Nick LaLota said proof of vaccination, requirements to be tested for COVID 24 hours prior to visiting the White House or being subjected to masking and social distancing is “excessive and unnecessary.”
“Out of protest, I will not be attending President Biden’s gathering of Freshman House Members at the White House this week. Even though four months ago the President told `60 Minutes’ that the pandemic is over, the White House is today enforcing arbitrary, outdated and unscientific pandemic protocols upon members of Congress who accepted the President’s invitation to meet him at the White House,” LaLota said in a statement.
“The President’s requirements include Members being tested for COVID 24 hours prior to visiting the White House coupled with each member either attesting to being vaccinated or being subject to mandatory masking and social distancing.”
LaLota, a retired Naval officer who succeeded former Rep. Lee Zeldin in the 1st Congressional District covering Suffolk County, said “arbitrary and unscientific” pandemic protocols should be “far behind us.”
“I am forgoing a historic trip to the White House to raise awareness of this punitive policy in hopes that President Biden will reverse it and other arbitrary, outdated, and unscientific restrictions across the federal system,” he said.
Biden is hosting the reception for new members of Congress in the East Room.
It’s unclear if any other new members of Congress are boycotting the Biden reception over the COVID protocols.
But upstate Rep. Elise Stefanik, the Republican Conference Chair, applauded LaLota’s decision.
“For too long, the Biden Administration has worked to force their COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Americans and extend their authoritarian protocols. It is past time for them to recognize the pandemic is over and end these requirements at the White House, instead of continuing to virtue signal to appeal to the Far Left,” Stefanik told The Post.
On “60 Minutes” in September, Biden said, “The pandemic is over.”
“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last August rolled back recommendations for social distancing and quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams scrapped masking requirements and some testing requirements. But staffers in medical facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals and some employees in city agencies are still mandated to be vaccinated.
The worst of the COVID outbreak that ravaged New York and the rest of the country beginning in 2020 is over, public health experts say The pandemic has been largely brought under control thanks to public health measures including vaccinations, better medical treatment and anti-viral medications, safer sanitary practices as well as natural immunity for those previously infected.
But the most recent Kraken Omicron strain of COVID-19 is very contagious, with many people previously hit with the bug getting re-infected. COVID-related deaths in New York, for example, spiked 30 percent last month compared to November.
The White House had no immediate comment on LaLota’s snub.
The White House coronavirus protocols have been in flux as the pandemic has waned.
Journalists who attend briefings and large events with Biden are supposed to have submitted a vaccine attestation form, but there’s little effort to ensure that they actually do so and in practice it’s an often-overlooked honor system and people can attend events without the submission.
Generally among the press corps, only reporters in the daily pool have to be screened for the virus with a rapid test at a CVS-contracted site off Lafayette Square near the White House, meaning that journalists who aren’t tested can come into contact with Biden and even ask him questions without their viral status being known.
On presidential trips and sometimes in time-sensitive situations, reporters are allowed to self-test and email a photo of their negative rapid-test results.
The system is more strict in some situations, such as the more than dozen White House Christmas parties in December, where guests posed for pictures with Biden, who at 80, is higher risk for exposure. For those celebrations, the White House set up a large rapid-test center at a nearby office building.
The Biden administration imposed the vaccine attestation policy on people who enter the White House grounds on Aug. 8, 2021, before more transmissible variants for the virus eluded the most common vaccines.