With lawmakers in Washington, D.C., apparently headed toward a showdown on whether to provide $500 billion in funding to help state and local governments recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refusing to back down from his claim that it would be better for states to go bankrupt than receive a federal bailout, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today used his most impassioned language to date in warning against turning the pandemic into a political football.
“This political patina, this politicization of what we’re going through in this country is extraordinarily dangerous. We are dealing with probably the most dramatic situation we have dealt with in modern political history. We’re dealing with a situation that we don’t really understand and don’t really know how to deal with. This is all unchartered water,” Cuomo said at an Albany news conference.
“At our best we have to be working together, we have to be logical, we have to be sane, we have to work with people we sometimes don’t like. We have to work across the aisle,” Cuomo said.
“We have to be at our best. When you start to politicize this situation and you start to say ‘red and blue’ and ‘this team and that team’ you might as well take a wedge and hammer it right ino the middle of this country. If you do that during this time and this becomes a political football, or closing and opening becomes a political football, or funding becomes a political football, or this becomes a finger-pointing blame game and you divide this country, the worst could lie ahead.”
Cuomo said what he’s hearing coming out of Washington at the moment is the music of a campaign season.
“This is the music of a rally and balloons. And it’s ‘us versus them’ and ‘we’re good and they’re bad’ and that is poison,” Cuomo said. He charged that a lot of what is said on Capitol Hill and at the White House these days is Washington doublespeak.
“You look at the bills that they want to pass and who they want to help,” Cuomo said. “They want to fund the hotels, restaurants, the airlines, the big corporations. That’s who they want to fund. Well, who do state and local governments fund? State and local governments fund police, fire fighters, nurses, school teachers, food banks. That’s who I want to fund.”
Cuomo brought up yesterday’s multistate flyover of the Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying and aerobatic teams.
“Jets fly over in tribute to the health care workers. Saying thank you is nice,” Cuomo said, “How about actually rewarding them and making their life easier? How about giving them hazard pay? How about helping with their child care? How about helping families who can’t feed their kids right now? How about helping the police and firefighters and all those people who are out there right now killing themselves to make life easier for us? That’s what this is really about. They want to fund corporate America. That’s who puts money in their pockets,” Cuomo said of some Washington politicians.
Cuomo said he’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly in politics for years.
“If there’s one moment to hit the pause button the moment would be now,” Cuomo said. “You have human suffering. You have people dying. You can’t stop the politics even in this moment? Even in this moment when people are dying all across the country you still want to play your politics? That’s what this is all about and that’s why it is so disturbing at a fundamental level.”
Cuomo displayed a floor-to-ceiling board covered with homemade masks that had been mailed in from across the country to show support for health care workers.
“This is what Americans are all about,” he said. “A little bit more of this and a little bit less of the partisanship and the ugliness and this country would be a better place.”
Cuomo said that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has to do better in keeping the subways safe and sanitized so as not to jeopardize the health of frontline workers who need to ride the lines to get to work.
He ordered the MTA to issue a plan by tomorrow stating how it will clean and disinfect every train, every night. He said that testing of transit workers for the virus begins today, with 1,000 workers to be checked. Cuomo was highly critical of the city for allowing homeless people to camp out on subway trains instead of being given proper shelter.
Cuomo reported that testing shows that 17.1% of New York City firefighters and EMTs tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and 10.5% of New York City police had the antibodies, showing exposure to the virus.
He said that hospitals in 35 counties in the state can resume doing elective surgery beginning tomorrow. Dutchess and Putnam are among the counties.
Statewide there have been a total of 18,015 COVID-19 deaths according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the Department of Health. There were 330 deaths yesterday, 16 in nursing homes and 314 in hospitals. That continued the trend of the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York state being below 400 for the past four days.
New York had 299,691 people test positive for the virus. There were 28,626 cases identified in Westchester, 11,586 in Rockland, 946 in Putnam, 8,488 in Orange and 2,881 in Dutchess.
There were 1,119 deaths in Westchester. Rockland saw 392 of its residents fall victim to the virus. Putnam lost 45 residents, while 236 Orange County residents were fatalities. There were 69 deaths in Dutchess.