The Corner

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Governor Cuomo Is No Governor Compassionate

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media while visiting the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, which will be partially converted into a hospital for patients affected by coronavirus, March 23, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

I seem to be the rare person who is not impressed with New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s philosopher-governor act. The other day, I disagreed here with his “new normal” prescription that I believe calls for a less-vibrant America.

In his latest escapade, a reporter asked the governor about whether he understands the fear and pain of protestors who want to get back to work. No, he does not. From the transcript as reported by the Washington Examiner:

“What if someone commits suicide because they can’t pay their bills?” the reporter asked the governor Wednesday.

“The illness is maybe my death as opposed to your death,” Cuomo responded. “You said they said, ‘the cure is worse than the illness.’ The illness is death. How can the cure be worse than the illness, if the illness is potential death?”

“What if the economy failing equals death?” the reporter persisted. “Because mental illness that the people stuck at home – ”

“No, it doesn’t,” Cuomo interrupted. “It doesn’t equal death. Economic hardship. Yes. Very bad. Not death. Emotional stress from being locked in a house. Very bad. Not death. Domestic violence on the increase. Very bad. Not death.”

Increased suicides — a wholly predictable consequence of severe economic downturn — does indeed “equal death.” That point aside, the virus doesn’t “equal death” either. It is a very serious illness, to be sure, but most people who contract it survive and many never experience any symptoms at all.

But here’s where Cuomo’s inner caring really shined brightly (he wrote sarcastically):

“You want to go to work?” Cuomo snapped. “Go take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow.”

Yeah, well, that is much easier said than done. Not everybody can be a governor’s brother and land an “essential job” at CNN.

The point of the national economic shutdown seems to have shifted in Cuomo’s mind. The purpose of mitigation, to use Dr. Fauci’s terminology, was to “flatten the curve” — meaning reduce the number of people seriously ill at any given time and have people’s illnesses spread over a longer period — to prevent medical resources from being overwhelmed as happened in Northern Italy. That goal may have been accomplished, which is why President Trump is encouraging a phased restart of the economy.

But it seems that Cuomo now believes the point of keeping everyone at home is for nobody to get sick. That’s impossible, particularly with a virus this communicable and one that is going to be with us for some time even if researchers successfully create a vaccine, which is no sure thing.

If Cuomo keeps New York’s economy shut down for too much longer, the cure could well become worse than the disease because of a sharp increase in the attendant social dislocations that the reporter mentioned. Reasonable minds can differ on the best time and logistics to at least partially reopen. And I know the governor has a lot on his plate. But it sure would have been encouraging for Cuomo to show a modicum of simple decency and empathy toward the good and decent people who are in despair because they are losing everything.

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