ALBANY — At his COVID-19 briefing Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered good news (rolling average of hospitalized COVID patients down for the eighth straight day) and bad news (the virus killed 630 more New Yorkers in the previous 24 hours).
But it will probably be remembered as the day when Cuomo’s patient facade finally cracked and he launched into a diatribe against President Donald Trump.
Cuomo had been among Trump’s harshest critics for the first three years of his presidency, but eased up as the worldwide pandemic reached America. Instead, he devoted his efforts to fighting the virus that latched onto New York state (in particular New York City) harder than the other 49 states.
Cuomo’s briefings have had a sameness lately, as each day he patiently laid out in reasoned, detailed terms why COVID-19 is a national crisis that needs national leadership and funding for a unified national response.
However, he generally did not overtly criticize Trump over a perceived lack of leadership or dwell on it.
As the governor spoke Friday, Trump tweeted what could be considered one of his less-provocative missives, saying Cuomo should complain less and do more.
During the question-and-answer period, Cuomo was asked a two-part question about overwhelmed New York City hospitals and Trump’s tweet.
For the next 15 minutes, Cuomo picked apart the president and his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis:
“Were we foolish for relying on your projections Mr. President?
“What am I supposed to do, send a bouquet of flowers?
“Testing is … a national problem that replicates the chaos you created with medical supplies.
“By the way, I needed a stockpile? Where was your stockpile?
“Thank you again, Mr. President, for the U.S. Navy ship Comfort — which, by the way, is just doing your job as president, it’s not really thank you like you wrote a check yourself.
“He’s doing nothing.”
Cuomo never did come back to the first part of the question, about the overwhelmed Queens hospitals.
But he looped back to Trump three more times during the remainder of one of his longest daily briefings.
“Fire them all, that’s what I say,” Como said of the president’s coronavirus task force, mocking Trump’s signature line in his old reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”
Asked how Trump finally got under his skin, the governor replied: “This is an important moment,” because without federal help on COVID-19 testing, the states’ fight against the pandemic is in trouble.
Cuomo discussed other familiar themes Friday, such as the need to keep up social distancing, the need for federal aid, the inequity of federal grants to states, and the need to reopen the state economy slowly.
Asked if he might reopen upstate before New York City, Cuomo said that would be logical. But how to do it is the harder question.
If businesses open in a county that has a very low case count or very few hospitalizations, people in the next county will come rushing over to shop and eat, overwhelming that county and likely spreading infection, he reasoned.
He used the example of downstate residents riding out the pandemic at their summer homes upstate.
“I get a lot of calls from people in the Adirondacks,” Cuomo said. “They don’t want a lot of people coming from downstate to the Adirondacks and flooding their community right now. What one does affects everyone.”
The same potential problem on a larger scale has led to New York and six nearby states to move in cooperation to reopen their economies in synch with one another.
“The first barbershop to open, there’s going to be a line out the door,” Cuomo said, offering a metaphor.
“We are on the cusp,” he said. “We’re still in the midst of a public heath crisis.”
In other COVID-19 related developments Friday:
- The state reached 229,642 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Across the Capital Region, Albany County had a cumulative total of 619, Fulton County 27, Montgomery County 33, Rensselaer 150, Saratoga County 236, Schenectady County 295 and Schoharie County 20.
- Saratoga County recorded its seventh resident death and Schenectady County its 14th.
- New Yorkers hoping for better insight into deaths in elder care facilities were given an incomplete picture Friday. The state Department of Health’s released its promised data, but listed only facilities with six or more deaths, and based the list on apparently incomplete data reported by the facilities themselves. (The death tolls that were released ranged as high as 55 at a single Brooklyn nursing home.)
- A bit more information is coming: Cuomo said he will issue an executive order that elder care facilities notify family members of all residents when there is a positive test in the facility.
- The state’s running county-by-county tally of elder care deaths appeared to have gone offline. Schenectady County had eight such deaths at last tally, by far the highest in the Capital Region and surrounding counties.
- Schenectady suspended metered parking downtown and the county Metroplex Development Authority waived fees at its 13 parking lots and downtown garage.
- The New York City Department of Environmental Protection delayed opening of recreational boating on its reservoirs in the Catskills from May 1 until at least May 23. Fishing from permitted rowboats stored on the shoreline is still allowed.
- Albany County said its Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center has had 13 residents and five employees test positive; one of the employees has recovered and returned to work.
- In a Facebook post, the Schoharie County Department of Health said the COVID cases in the lightly populated rural county are not the direct result of an influx of New York City residents fleeing the pandemic there. The virus is most often being spread by Schoharie County residents themselves, it said.
- Glens Falls Hospital, struggling with increased costs and decreased revenue through its response to the crisis, invited donations to the GFH COVID-19 Support Fund. Donations can be made online through www.glensfallshospital.org/Donate or by texting “GFHSUPPORT” to 501-55.
- Sheriff Michael Zurlo announced a COVID-19 poster contest for students in grades K-12 in Saratoga County. The theme is “What Saratoga County First Responders Mean to Me.” Entries are due by May 18 via email to [email protected] or surface mail to Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, 6010 County Farm Road, Ballston Spa, NY 12020.