Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday played the blame game for the coronavirus’ invasion of American soil, calling out public-health agencies, the intelligence community and the media — as another 335 New Yorkers died from the disease.
“The virus was in China last November and December,” said Cuomo in a press briefing at the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. “Why didn’t someone suspect, ‘Well maybe the virus gets on a plane … and lands in the United States the next day?’
“All you need is one person to get on a plane. As it happened, one person got on a plane, and went from China to Europe, and then it went from Europe to New York.”
Cuomo first took aim at international and national health agencies, namely the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Where was the whole international health community?” he asked. “Where was the whole national host of experts, the WHO, the NIH, the CDC, that whole alphabet soup of agencies? Where was everyone?
“Where was the intelligence community, with the briefings?” he continued. “Saying this is in China and they have something called an airplane and you can get on an airplane and you can come to the United States?”
The governor saved room in his crosshairs for the media, alleging that they didn’t do enough to sound the alarm that China’s problem could soon become America’s.
“Where were all the experts? Where was The New York Times? Where was The Wall Street Journal?” he asked. “Where was all the bugle blowers who should say, ‘Be careful, there’s a virus in China that may be in the United States.’
“Who was supposed to blow the bugle and didn’t?”
But Cuomo did exempt one group from a share of the accountability.
“Governors don’t do global pandemics, right?” he said. “It’s not a state responsibility.”
While Cuomo’s authority doesn’t extend internationally, he has been criticized for aspects of his response once the virus got a toehold inside New York’s borders.
The governor has openly clashed with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio rather than present a united front, lagged well behind de Blasio’s advice that New Yorkers should wear face-coverings in public and clung fiercely to an early directive that nursing homes accept coronavirus-positive residents, even while acknowledging that the elderly are most at risk.
Cuomo said that the systems that failed on the first go-around have to get it together, whether in preparation for a possible second wave of the coronavirus or a new contagion.
“What happens next time China says, ‘I have a flu, I have a virus’ or South Korea says, ‘I have a virus,’” he asked. “Is it going to take the international community and the federal agencies two months to figure out that we’re in trouble?
“I think the attitude has to be that a virus anywhere is a virus everywhere.”
Cuomo sounded off as another 335 deaths were reported statewide in the 24-hour period ending at midnight Tuesday, running the overall toll to 17,638, among 295,106 confirmed cases.
The 335 fatalities mark the lowest daily total this month, but are nevertheless a bitter pill to swallow, Cuomo said.
“Every day, I think maybe today’s the day the nightmare will be over, but it’s not,” he said. “You see this number is, basically, reducing, but not at a tremendous rate.
“The only thing tremendous is the number of New Yorkers who still pass away.”