Andrew Cuomo is spiking the football, dunking the basketball, and dashing around the soccer field taking off his shirt. He’s spraying champagne all over Albany. He’s Muhammad Ali standing over the crumpled form of Sonny Liston in 1965: Boom, take that, coronavirus. Woo-hoo! Victory! Only 31,000 deaths. New York suffered through the equivalent of 9/11 times 11 but . . . yay?
“You played politics with this virus and you lost,” Cuomo said in an interview Thursday, referring to Florida governor Ron DeSantis, with whom Cuomo is engaging in a bizarre feud to rival his utterly nonsensical ongoing war with fellow liberal Democrat and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s now undeniable this country paid a terrible price,” Cuomo continued, suggesting . . . what? That other states lacked the sage wisdom of Andrew Cuomo, slayer of the coronavirus? Thirty-one thousand New York families would like a word.
Last week, Cuomo saluted himself as he celebrated several weeks of encouraging coronavirus trends in his state by saying there was no longer a need for his daily press briefings, a habit for 111 days. “We showed that in the end, love does win. Love does conquer all — that no matter how dark the day, love brings the light,” he said. “That is what I will take from the past 111 days. And it inspires me and energizes me and excites me.”
Love wins? It rather looks like COVID-19 won. If any entity deserves to brag, it’s Satan’s cupcake, with 31,000 graves to dance on. And if DeSantis, as Cuomo claims, “lost,” the scoreboard doesn’t reflect it. Florida has a larger population than New York State but has registered fewer than one-third as many coronavirus cases. Florida has seen 15 COVID-19 fatalities per 100,000 population; New York, 160. With 46,000 deaths between them, New York and its sibling New Jersey have combined for more fatalities than France, Spain, and Italy.
Cuomo is miffed about Florida imposing restrictions on visiting New Yorkers this spring and summer, but since New York has been the global hotspot for the virus, fears about importing it were well-founded. Cuomo is now in vengeance mode, ordering that visitors from Florida and several other states where there has been a surge in coronavirus cases self-quarantine for 14 days. How will Cuomo enforce this? Spot checks, he says. Cuomo can’t seriously believe that everyone coming to New York will huddle in an apartment or hotel room for 14 days. The average domestic visitor to New York City stays just 1.9 days. Even foreign visitors only stay nine days on average. Nobody is coming to New York to volunteer for a 14-day self-imprisonment. This latest Cuomo edict is pure theater, fan service for fellow liberals who fancy themselves giving red states a wedgie.
Other states did exactly what Cuomo did: They stayed in lockdown for as long as they thought they could stand it, then began to ease up when it looked like the virus was diminishing. In some cases, the virus has flared up. Does Cuomo think this can’t happen in his state? Humility might be in order for the man whose state proved to be a virus Vesuvius, especially since New York City, the source of the vast majority of the infections in New York State, has just begun to open up and we don’t yet know whether the just-relaxed restrictions will give the virus a boost. Cuomo’s much-touted track-and-trace program, a key part of his strategy, is barely functional, but on the other hand, maybe the virus is just burning itself out, like a wildfire.
Cuomo has gotten a lot of credit from the public for taking the pandemic seriously and for being calm and forthright with statistics. But he still refuses to admit error for his disastrous March 25 directive, which remained in effect until June 10, to force nursing homes to accept infected people, though he keeps changing his story about who is to blame for the death toll in those facilities. Now it’s all Trump’s fault; now it’s the nursing-home staff. His latest gambit, to declare that the disease’s spectacular victory in New York was really a case of love conquering all, while insisting the real problem lies in states where there have been nowhere near as many fatalities as in his own, delights the media, always eager to play along with a red-states-are-evil propaganda campaign. The relative death counts tell a different story. Andrew Cuomo has about as much reason to brag about coronavirus as Lyndon Johnson did about Vietnam.