ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday formally stated what has been increasingly apparent over the last few weeks: The COVID-19 pandemic is at bay in New York and he’ll stop making it his primary public focus.
“We did what we had to do, my friends, and we did it together, and we did it every day. And now we’re going to move on to other things,” he said at his daily briefing, which he said he will discontinue after Friday.
The briefings gained a national audience early on in the pandemic, as New York was hit first and hardest by the virus and news footage showed refrigerator trucks filled with COVID victims outside overwhelmed New York City hospitals.
With a slow but remarkably steady recovery underway — fewer New Yorkers have been hospitalized with COVID every day except one from April 12 to June 16 — Cuomo’s daily briefing evolved from war room updates to repetitive talking points, sounding a bit hectoring at times.
When national outrage and widespread civil unrest erupted over police killings of blacks, COVID became almost an afterthought in some briefings in recent weeks, as Cuomo seized the new crisis to push through sweeping changes in state laws governing police.
There was more of that Wednesday. The governor led off by reiterating his push for fundamentally remaking the hundreds of police forces across the state and announced he’d push for a law to make June 19th — Juneteenth, the anniversary of the emancipation of American slaves in 1865 — a holiday for state employees. He also signed an executive order making it a one-time day off this year.
But Cuomo also launched into praise of New York’s COVID strategy and a condemnation of the federal COVID strategy on Wednesday, his voice rising to a near-shout at times in the formal Capitol chamber where he gives his briefings.
“I’m telling you today the federal government is making a mistake and it is making an historic mistake … on the way it is handling this COVID crisis and how it is now advising states and the people of this nation.”
Numerous other states have reopened their economies more quickly and less cautiously than Cuomo has reopened New York, and many of them are now seeing significant spikes in COVID infection, he said. Some of the people in those states will visit New York this summer and risk reintroducing the virus here, he added.
Cuomo dismissed the notion that the higher number of COVID tests being performed is the root cause of the higher number of positive results, noting that the number of hospitalizations is on the rise too.
(Also, New York state has nearly doubled the number of tests it performs daily over the last six weeks and seen its positive test rate steadily drop from 12% to 1% over the same period.)
“We’re going to turn the page on the immediacy of this crisis,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “I hope people learn from what we accomplished here in New York. I hope people around the country look at New York and say, how did they do that? How did they go from the worst situation in terms of transmission to the best?”
New York recorded 17 deaths from COVID on Tuesday and counted 1,479 patients hospitalized with COVID. The official death toll, which is believed to fall short of the actual number killed by the virus, stood at 24,629 statewide Wednesday morning.