Like a scene out of the least-beloved Christopher Guest movie ever, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted a blue curtain during his Monday afternoon press briefing to reveal a giant model mountain meant to represent the peaks and valleys of the state’s COVID-19 cases.
“Do you know what this is?” Cuomo asked the room of assembled reporters; one curtly replied: “No.”
“This is the mountain,” Cuomo supplied, helpfully. “This is the mountain that New Yorkers climbed. You know how I keep showing the curve? This is the curve. It’s actually proportionate. We started on Day 1, and the numbers kept going straight up for 42 days.”
Cuomo's science fair-looking model of the COVID-19 curve was on full display at Monday's press conference, during which the governor used his platform to boast about how the state of New York has battled the novel coronavirus in recent months.
After a mandatory stay-at-home order that spanned some 78 days, New York has largely flattened its number of coronavirus cases. The state has commenced with the beginning phases of its reopening plans and, according to the governor, the number of confirmed cases fell to 391 on June 28. When compared with the more than 10,000 confirmed cases in New York in April, the numbers tell a promising story: As states across the U.S., including Florida, California and Texas, continue to experience alarming spikes in new infection rates, New York’s numbers appear to be holding steadily low — for now.
But while Cuomo’s installation — not his first foray into mixed-media art, it must be noted — appears to be a good-natured way to keep daily press briefings lighthearted during what remains a time of great stress for many New Yorkers, the governor’s many and well-documented missteps should be enough to keep anyone from laughing too hard.
As ProPublica has reported, during the pandemic's early, but vitally important stages Cuomo initially rebuked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to shut down the city as a part of an ongoing “intrastate cold war” between the two elected officials, failing to act for another week and in the process delaying action at a critical juncture when New York’s coronavirus cases were doubling near-daily.
Cuomo and his health commissioner, Howard Zucker, are also liable for the decision to make it mandatory for nursing homes to readmit residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 after they had been discharged from the hospital, as long as they were stable — a policy that enabled the virus to ravage New York’s assisted care facilities after as many as 4,500 COVID-19 infected patients were sent to stay at nursing homes across the state.
To date, more than 31,000 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19, all while Governor Cuomo has sat at the helm of the response team. It’s nice that he can goof off and commission his interns to construct what looks like a glorified seventh-grade science project, or perhaps like a lost scene from Parks and Recreation, but the many thousands who have lost loved ones as a result of his negligence probably aren’t laughing.