Manlius town supervisor refers to COVID-19 pandemic as ‘Chinese virus season’

Local News

UPDATE: On Friday evening, Manlius Town Supervisor Ed Theobald released the following statement:

“At the end of our board meeting Wednesday night, I addressed the ongoing concerns regarding the necessary precautions we need to continue to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our community and families healthy and safe.

In my beginning remarks, I referred to the COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese Virus.’ I recognize that this description I used was inappropriate and unmerited and for that I am sorry. Even though it was not my intent, in retrospect, I fully acknowledge that the remark was both objectionable and offensive.

As a representative that presides over our town and three widely diverse and multicultural villages, it needs to be my perpetual aim to ensure that all of our engagements and interactions are respectful to all and foster a notable appreciation for the enrichment that the diversity of our residents and workforce brings to our community and lives.”

MANLIUS, N.Y, (WSYR-TV) — Things took quite the turn during the Town of Manlius board meeting on Wednesday, Oct 14 and it was all because of the phrase “Chinese virus season” used by the Town Supervisor.

At the end of the hour-and-a-half public Zoom meeting, Manlius Supervisor Ed Theobald used his final remarks to remind the community to stay proactive when it comes to the pandemic, especially as we approach flu season.

In the video below, you can hear Theobald say the following:

“It is of course now becoming the flu season and it’s continuing to be the ‘Chinese virus season’, known as COVID-19.”

Ed Theobald — Town Supervisor of Manlius

Theobald then went on to remind the community to stay focused, wear masks, be cautious and encouraged everyone to get a flu shot.

Moments after, Katelyn Kriesel, Manlius town counselor, addressed her concerns with the supervisor’s comments.

“Just one quick comment. The phrase ‘Chinese virus’ has been fought by many in the community to be disparaging towards Asian people in the country, and it’s really not a term I’m very comfortable with in describing COVID,” Kriesel explained.

Theobald responded to Kriesel, asking, “Even though they use it for the Asian flu?”

That’s when Heather Waters, a member of the town of Manlius board, agreed and recommended the board uses the CDC terminology while describing COVID-19.

I would agree with Katelyn and understood there was no mal intent but I think that coronavirus — the official CDC term — if we could use that in the notes or recognize that would be what I would want to use for that.

Heather Waters — Board Member in Town of Manlius

Theobald responded to Waters and said he would “agree to disagree.”

NewsChannel 9 has reached out to Theobald for comment, but we have not heard back.

However, in an interview with NewsChannel 9 on Friday, Kriesel thought it was important to publicly acknowledge the incident.

I think what’s important now that the phrase was used, that it’s important that we publicly acknowledge that was inappropriate and we, as a town board, can set that positive example.

To have a phrase like that used in a town board meeting, it was very important that it was then publicly acknowledged immediately the power that that phrase has and the negative connotation and the very real ramifications and implications of using that phrase at all.

You can’t let opportunities to stand up for the rights of others, you can’t let those opportunities slip by because those are the moments that are so important.

Katelyn Krisel — Town Counselor in Manlius

To watch the full town board meeting, click here.

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For more local news, follow Adrienne Smith on Twitter @AdrienneSmithTV.

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