When U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff started feeling under the weather the weather last week, he wouldn't have thought anything of it — if not for the fact that his wife, an OB/GYN at Emory Healthcare, had just tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ossoff has since tested negative.
"For the moment, at least, I'm in the clear," he told the MDJ.
Ossoff, a Democrat, is running to unseat Sen. David Perdue, a Republican. He rose to prominence in 2017, when he ran for the 6th Congressional District, which covers part of Cobb County. Though it had long been a Republican stronghold, he lost to opponent Karen Handel, 51.78% to 48.22%. (The seat is currently held by Democrat Lucy McBath, who beat Handel in another nail-biter in 2018.)
In an interview with the Marietta Daily Journal this week, Ossoff spoke about his wife's diagnosis, his experience seeking a test, and the federal government's response to the coronavirus.
"I've known and she's known since the beginning of this pandemic that, as a frontline healthcare worker, her risk of infection was higher," he said.
Although he's worried for her well-being, her symptoms have been mild, he said, and she has even been able to work remotely since her diagnosis.
Ossoff said in addition to testing negative, his results came back quickly.
"My experience was that it was difficult to find out when, where and how to get tested," he said. "The problem is that it's uneven and unreliable across the state," he continued. "There are folks who had to wait six, eight or 10 days (to get tested.)"
When asked about the federal government's response to the coronavirus, Ossoff said there were two lenses through which one could look at it: public health and the economy.
The public health response, the Democrat said, has been "totally incompetent," ultimately costing American lives.
"It didn't have to be this way," he said. "On Friday, Canada had 540 new cases. ... On the same day, the United States had 74,000."
Regarding the economic response Ossoff said he supported the CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program and $1,200 checks sent to Americans making less than $75,000 per year — something Perdue opposed, he said, citing an interview the senator gave the Marietta Daily Journal in May.
(During that interview, Perdue said he "personally opposed" the checks. "I felt like the No. 1 objective we had was to keep the relationship between the employer and the employee," he explained.)
But Ossoff criticized other aspects of the program.
"When we observe how much massive help went, virtually overnight, to Wall Street investment banks and major corporate borrowers in comparison to the help for regular people, it was overwhelming," he said. "And that reflects the extraordinary power, influence and access that well-lobbied, well-financed trade groups have compared to ordinary people."
Some CARES Act benefits recently expired, including a moratorium on evictions from federally supported housing and a $600-per-week addition to state unemployment benefits.
As senators gear up for another battle over the next round of stimulus funding, Ossoff detailed what he thinks their priorities should be.
"I think they should focus on direct help for people," he said, including another round of stimulus checks to individuals, more funding for testing and the Paycheck Protection Program, funding for schools — even those that decide to open virtually — and an extension of the eviction moratorium.