A member of a Queens community board was booted from office after referring to COVID-19 as the “Wu-Flu” in a public meeting.
Community Board 5 member Richard Huber, during the remote Jan. 11 meeting, said, “When all you ever heard about the vaccine — these so-called vaccines — for the ‘Wu-Flu.’”
He was questioning the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines and antiviral drugs amid an increase in COVID-19 amid a new contagious Omicron strain.
Board member Derek Evers responded, “I’m not going to comment on the unhinged anti-vaxx rant we just heard. But I would just like to condemn the racist language that was used and I don’t think the community board is any place for that.”
Queens has the largest Asian American population in the US.
Borough President Donovan Richards immediately removed Huber from CB 5 — which covers the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village — citing the code of conduct for planning board members that bars discrimination. The borough president appoints members to the community board in consultation with City Council members and has the power to remove them for cause.
“For the last three years, our Asian-American neighbors in New York City have experienced a surge in bias and violence against their community, and I will not tolerate a community board member using language that has fueled that wave of bigotry and hate,” Richards said in a statement to The Post, of which he later tweeted a variation.
“Therefore, I have removed this individual from Queens Community Board 5 for cause.”
Huber’s remarks were first reported by the Queens Ledger.
But there’s been extensive reporting indicating that COVID-19 may have originated from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Queens Councilman Robert Holden — whose wife is Japanese American and has been subjected to anti-Asian discrimination — appointed Huber to CB5. But he said Huber’s ouster by the borough president smacks of cancel culture run amok.
He said Richards should have counseled Huber and given him a chance to explain himself or apologize and complained that Richards, who is black, is quick to racialize issues, including against him. Holden is white.
“I am married to an Asian American. Anti-Asian violence is real,” Holden said.
“I also know that Richard Huber has a big heart and has done a lot of good things in the neighborhood. There’s a body of work that Richard Huber has done for decades that should be considered,” Holden said.
“Donovan Richards just cancels people.”
Huber told The Post that his remark was “extemporaneous” and “was not intended as a slur … I said it. I live with it.”
He said he believes COVID-19 “did originate in the Wuhan laboratory” in China.
Huber, a longtime community advocate and member of the Queens Kiwanis Club, likened it to the measles being referred to as the “German measles” because of the early cases first recorded in that country.
He asked that his “Wu-Flu” comment be heard in the context of his overall remarks, in which he praised doctors and nurses and lamented that some left the profession over COVID-19 policies. He also complained that so many people are infected with COVID variants after getting vaccinated and boosted and warned about the side effects of anti-viral drugs.
“All you ever heard about the vaccine — the so-called vaccines — for the ‘Wu-Flu.’ It was only safe and effective and would prevent transmission, and it would prevent you from catching it. That doesn’t seem exactly true,” Huber said.
Public health studies show those who are vaccinated and boosted are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 if they are infected or reinfected.
But New York City health officials also recently reported that the latest Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, was more likely to infect residents who were vaccinated or who were previously hit with COVID-19.