The husband of Democratic congressional candidate Brigid Callahan Harrison has been hospitalized for the coronavirus after developing a fever and experiencing significant breathing issues and is receiving treatment.
Paul Meilak, a retired New York City police detective, had already tested positive for COVID-19. Harrison is asymptomatic and has been unable to get tested in Atlantic County, where she has lived continuously since the 1970s.
“I have not seen Paul since mid-March and – like so many other families – it is tough to receive updates in Longport while he is attended to in a New York City hospital,” Harrison said. “I am asking for your prayers and positive thoughts for his quick recovery. Like many who are also sitting in their homes awaiting information regarding a love one, the experience has brought a series of emotions and thoughts these last few days. “
Harrison been sheltering in place at her home in Longport, campaigning from there as she seeks the chance to challenge Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) in New Jersey’s 2nd district.
“While at times I feel helpless, this situation has only reinforced the gratitude I feel to the wonderful community we have built in South Jersey through the years, and I am forever thankful for the support my friends and neighbors have shown me,” Harrison said. “We all must continue to look after each other.”
A political science professor, Harrison has deep roots in Atlantic County and in South Jersey, where her father served as a councilman.
While still in her twenties, she was the secretary to the Atlantic County Democratic organization and ran a strong race for freeholder.
Her late husband, Kenneth Harrison, was a two-term councilman in Egg Harbor City and was the Democratic candidate for Atlantic County Executive in 1991. An economics professor and union leader at Stockton University, Harrison died in 2010 at age 64 after suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2016, Harrison married Meilak, who had served on the front lines during September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Since their marriage, Meilak stays in New York several nights a week to be near his job as a hotel security director and spends weekends with his wife in Longport, where her children had attended school.
“These are not normal times, and this has made our current situation a bit more difficult,” Harrison said. “I am so incredibly grateful to the doctors, nurses, and support staff who are caring for my husband when I cannot even visit him. They are true American heroes, and I thank them for putting their lives at risk to care for Paul and for others.”
In a letter to supporters, Harrison has urged people to stay in their home.
“This is no time to break our practice of shelter in place,” she said. “I want to reinforce, as I have said publicly in recent days, our work continues, even during these difficult times. Strengthening the voice of South Jersey, supporting our local doctors and nurses and insuring that they have PPE and all the equipment they need to stay safe, fighting for increased testing in each of the district’s counties, and protecting our economic future remains this campaign’s top priority. “