Back in June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended his 100-day streak of daily coronavirus press briefings and embarked on what some have referred to as a victory lap.
In the weeks since, he’s bragged about New York’s success in getting its outbreak under control, offered advice to other states, and even unveiled a celebratory, pandemic-themed poster that describes the “111 days of hell” the state went through, and can be purchased for $11.50.
It’s true that New York has made tremendous progress over the past few months, with the number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 plunging to levels not seen since March.
And it’s true that many other states now find themselves in a similar position to the one New York was in last spring.
But the governor’s celebratory media tour still strikes me as premature, and more than a little bit cocky.
It glosses over the terrible toll COVID-19 took upon the state, and gives the mistaken impression that we’ve conquered a fearsome adversary. The bitter truth is that there’s still plenty to worry about, with the state likely to get hit by a second wave of the virus in the coming months.
Researchers at the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have built a model to provide four-week COVID-19 forecasts for every county in the U.S., and they’ve issued a warning: the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast could see a resurgence of the virus.
Nobody wants to hear this, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, the PolicyLab prediction is wrong.
But there’s a good chance it’s right.
David Rubin, PolicyLab’s director, told National Public Radio that the virus is moving northward from Florida, along “travel corridors like I-95.”
“We are now seeing a clear resurgence in the Philadelphia area and (surrounding counties),” Rubin said. “We’re starting to see upticks in the shore regions of New Jersey. And we’re actually seeing some elevated (transmission rates) every week in the New York City boroughs.”
Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties all saw their positive test rates more than double from mid-June to mid-July, and while the number of people testing positive is still fairly small, that’s cause for concern.
Life is not going to return to normal until the virus is no longer a threat, and with cases exploding all over the U.S., it’s clear we’re going to be dealing with COVID-19 for some time. That means making tough decisions – and adjusting, often on the fly, to reports of outbreaks and positive cases in our community.
I’ve been a supporter of doing everything we can to get kids in school, because I believe the consequences of months-long remote learning will be severe.
But it’s become evident that reopening schools full-time right now would be a mistake. Cases are on the rise locally, and the worst-case scenario – that caseloads surge right as schools are opening their doors to students – is too great to ignore.
Some countries, such as Germany and New Zealand, have successfully reopened their schools. But they’ve also been far more successful at containing the virus than the U.S.
The grim reality is that COVID-19 has outwitted our elected officials at every turn.
Not too long ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom was being extolled for his handling of coronavirus.
A May article on the investigative news site ProPublic, titled “Two Coasts. One Virus. How New York Suffered Nearly 10 Times the Number of Deaths as California,” attributed California’s success to better decision-making by elected officials. Two months later, that theory seems short-sighted and suspect: California is now a COVID-19 hot spot.
I want the pandemic to be over as much as anybody.
But we’ve got a long way to go before we can declare victory over the virus, relax our vigilance and celebrate with our friends and loved ones.
Right now, the proper response to politicians who claim they’ve gotten COVID-19 under control is skepticism. Don’t be fooled by Cuomo’s commemorative poster – the virus is still with us, and will be for some time.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.