Andrew Cuomo owes a genuine back-to-work plan to New Yorkers
With his announcement Thursday that New York would continue its “pause” until May 15, it became clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has lost control of the crisis — which he hitherto had such command over.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that the blanket policy divides businesses into “essential” and “nonessential.” The better frame is to divide businesses that can operate safely and those that can’t.
Cuomo’s totalizing approach, moreover, fails to distinguish between Manhattan (population: 1.6 million) and Morehouse, NY (population: 77).
Cuomo had been a calming force, bringing serene authority to an anxious moment, especially when compared to our erratic mayor and combative president. But now we need more than serenity and confidence. We need a roadmap back to normal. Cuomo has failed to produce any such thing.
Maybe he let the early good reviews go to his head. At the news conference where he announced another month of quarantine, Cuomo rambled about Joe Friday and “Dragnet,” which he raved was “an unappreciated cinematic treasure.” Spare us the Dad jokes and Boomer references, Governor. It isn’t appropriate. People are dying across the state; others are terrified of economic collapse and unemployment.
Cuomo’s official Web site touts the Thursday news conference as one in which the governor “outlined a blueprint to un-pause New York.” But where, exactly, is that blueprint?
The list on his site, presumably the “blueprint,” describes a “phased return” to a “new normal.” But when and how? When will that phased return begin if we have a month of the status quo with not even minimal adjustments or a more nuanced frame than essential/nonessential? It appears more like a blueprint to someday develop a blueprint.
It doesn’t help that the lockdown rules don’t quite apply equally to everyone. Cuomo’s brother, Chris, came down with COVID-19 and has been broadcasting his CNN show — featuring grossly obsequious coverage of the governor — from his house in Southampton.
Last week, Chris announced that his wife, Cristina, had also tested positive for the virus. Who knows how that happened? But it’s disconcerting enough that Chris has blatantly not been quarantining.
A few days before the announcement about his wife, Chris was seen in East Hampton, a 30-minute drive from his home, visiting a property of his that is under construction. He had a verbal altercation with a bicyclist who, correctly, asked what he was doing outside.
The governor was on Chris’ show Thursday and commiserated about Cristina’s diagnosis but said it was inevitable, since “it’s very hard for a person to quarantine in a home, and other people not to get it.” Perhaps the governor should clarify what it means to quarantine, as either most New Yorkers don’t understand what it means — or his own kid brother doesn’t.
Consistency matters. This would have been a great moment for the governor to show that we’re all in this together, that no one gets special treatment — and that his brother, who has been open that he still has symptoms including fever, shouldn’t be leaving his room, much less his house. The gov failed to do that, even as he extended a blanket lockdown on the rest of us.
“Everyone asks when it’s over,” the governor has said. “It’s over when you have a vaccine. And that’s 12 to 18 months away.”
If the governor is planning to keep us locked down for more than a year — with big exceptions made for his famous brother to visit his construction project when he feels like it — he needs to say so now.
If he isn’t, he needs to be specific about how and when we will be reopening. A good model to follow might be Europe’s phased reopening, starting with small businesses that can be patronized without compromising social distancing.
We are past the calming stage. Solidarity breaks down when there’s little hope or the appearance of favoritism (cough-cough, Chris!). Worse, authoritativeness loses its shine if a growing share of the population senses there is no real plan.
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