Rep. Lee Zeldin said his leukemia diagnosis was caught early, and...

Rep. Lee Zeldin said his leukemia diagnosis was caught early, and the treatment was noninvasive and successful so a public announcement never became necessary. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Daily Point

Zeldin says cancer treatment timing allowed for discretion

When Rep. Lee Zeldin mentioned his own leukemia diagnosis and treatment in a speech at the Ontario County Republican Party Dinner Friday, the revelation was a shock to the New York political world.

And with Zeldin pursuing an energetic run for governor, the timing raised questions about how, when and whether he would or should have gone public.

But Zeldin, texting with The Point as he flew to D.C. Monday, said the problem was caught early, and the treatment was noninvasive and successful so a public announcement never became necessary.

Zeldin, 41, said his decision to discuss the illness Friday was "spontaneous, on the spot" and intended to comfort Ontario County Republican Party chairwoman Trisha Turner, who has been fighting her own health battles for several months.

Zeldin said he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in November after a routine blood test, and "was sent to an oncologist/hematologist for further testing." The treatment started very quickly, and the remission happened within three months, which is normal with such early detection.

Both early detection and medical advances over the past 50 years made such outcomes possible. The five-year survival rate is 70% today, and much higher with early detection, but it was just 22% in the 1970s. CML cannot be cured.

"For me, this CML was caught instantly/early and didn’t even require chemo or any intense treatment. It was just a pill," Zeldin texted. "My numbers immediately returned to normal without any side effects or impacts on my energy or activity, and my doctors expected the whole way through that I am going to have a full normal and healthy life. I was already in blood remission before deciding/announcing for governor."

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

New York’s 2020 births edge out deaths by a nose

In 2019, there were more deaths than births in just five states in the country: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

In 2020, it was 25 states that had more deaths than births.

That includes Alabama, where the gap between the state’s 64,714 deaths and 57,641 births in 2020 marked the first time that had occurred since the state began keeping such records in 1900. The new record earned it national attention when a New York Times article focused on a report by Prof. Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.

And New York?

The Empire State kept its numbers right side up, but just barely, and the excess of births compared with deaths in the state dropped from 65,000 in 2019 to 7,600 in 2020.

When the COVID-19 shutdown kept people home starting in March 2020, there was talk that all the together-time might lead to a national baby boom. Instead, the opposite happened.

Meanwhile, death rates skyrocketed. New York had the second-highest year-over-year decline in birthrates in the nation in the second half of 2020 at 9%, trailing only New Mexico’s drop.

Johnson told The Point that the sudden gaps were created by the national year-over-year increase of 504,000 additional deaths, almost entirely from COVID, in 2020. In New York, 58,000 more people died in 2020 than in 2019. But he says the bigger long-term worry may be a national birthrate that began declining during the Great Recession and never stopped dropping.

"When we saw birthrates really start to decline, during the Great Recession, the assumption was that they were births postponed, and we’d see the numbers jump back up," Johnson said Monday. "That never happened, and instead the numbers kept decreasing. And now, after 13 years of mostly steady declines, we’ve had 7.6 million fewer babies born in the past 13 years than pre-2008 statistics would have predicted, and the pandemic has accelerated the trend."

In 2020 in New York, 209,172 babies were born. That’s about 17,000 fewer than in 2018, a decline of 8%.

In 2008, 249,655 babies were born in New York; the drop in annual births from then to 2020 was 16%, of which only half can be attributed to COVID.

"Everyone is focused on the death rates right now," Johnson said. "But the birthrate trend is going to have a huge impact."

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Suicide bombers

Randall Enos

Randall Enos

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Quick Points

Course-correct, or stay the course

  • The temporary fences, lines of dump trucks, riot shields, mounted police and hundreds of officers on hand for Saturday’s protest in Washington over the so-called mistreatment of Jan. 6 protesters did not impress that things were under control as much as call into question once again where all of that was on Jan. 6.
  • After Texas lawmakers passed a slew of hard-right legislation earlier this year, University of Texas pollsters found a majority of residents say the state is headed in the wrong direction. Now lawmakers are headed back to the capital for a special session to pass more conservative bills. You didn’t expect a poll to slow their roll, did you?
  • Notre Dame Cathedral is finally stabilized and ready for reconstruction — 29 months after it was severely damaged by fire. Not a bad timeline, considering it took more than 100 years to build the Paris landmark.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, defiantly unvaccinated against COVID-19, will address the UN Tuesday in what amounts to a test of the body’s requirement that leaders merely attest that they have been vaccinated, known as the "honor system." No, there’s nothing honorable about what Bolsonaro is doing.
  • Democrat Beto O’Rourke is planning to run against Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and recently narrowed his polling deficit to 5 points. The counter-context: In the same poll, hypothetical candidate actor Matthew McConaughey leads Abbott by 9 points. Is O’Rourke chasing "Fool’s Gold"? Will McConaughey have a "Failure to Launch" because he’s "Dazed and Confused"?
  • Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb says that "nobody knows" the origin of the 6-foot social-distancing recommendation and that the COVID-19 guideline was arbitrary. That’ll calm down the skeptics, for sure.
  • President Joe Biden faces an interesting choice: He can consider backing off his plan to start widespread COVID-19 booster shots now that an FDA advisory panel has said they’re needed only for those at heightened risk or over 65 years old, or he can try to spin and stay the course. Only one matches his vow to follow the science.

Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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