In the last week two damning stories, one from ProPublica, and one from Politico, identify New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio as being responsible for much of the ensuing chaos and for stymying efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and to act in a timely fashion.
ProPublica‘s story reveals that New York suffered at ten times the rate as that of California despite both states having been in possession of the same crucial intelligence at the same time. “By March 14,” ProPublica says, “London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco, had seen enough. For weeks, she and her health officials had looked at data showing the evolving threat of COVID-19. In response, she’d issued a series of orders limiting the size of public gatherings, each one feeling more arbitrary than the last. She’d been persuaded that her city’s considerable and highly regarded health care system might be insufficient for the looming onslaught of infection and death.
“We need to shut this shit down,” Breed remembered thinking.
Three days later in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio was thinking much the same thing. He’d been publicly savaged for days for not closing the city’s school system, and even his own Health Department was in revolt at his inaction. And so, having at last been convinced every hour of delay was a potentially deadly misstep, de Blasio said it was time to consider a shelter-in-place order. Under it, he said, it might be that only emergency workers such as police officers and health care providers would be allowed free movement.
“I think it’s gotten to a place,” de Blasio said at a news conference, “where the decision has to be made very soon.”
Breed, it turns out, had sent de Blasio a copy of her detailed shelter-in-place order. She thought New York might benefit from it.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, reacted to de Blasio’s idea for closing down New York City with derision. It was dangerous, he said, and served only to scare people. Language mattered, Cuomo said, and “shelter-in-place” sounded like it was a response to a nuclear apocalypse.
Moreover, Cuomo said, he alone had the power to order such a measure.
For years, Cuomo and de Blasio, each of whom has harbored national political ambitions, had engaged in a kind of intrastate cold war, a rivalry that to many often felt childish and counterproductive. When de Blasio finally decided to close the city’s schools, it was Cuomo who rushed to make the public announcement, claiming it as his decision.
“No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval,” Cuomo said of de Blasio’s call for a shelter-in-place order. “I have no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.”
Cuomo’s conviction didn’t last. On March 22, he, too, shuttered his state. The action came six days after San Francisco had shut down, five days after de Blasio suggested doing similarly and three days after all of California had been closed by Newsom. By then, New York faced a raging epidemic, with the number of confirmed cases at 15,000 doubling every three or four days.
Politico in turn published the findings of an analysis by Columbia University released Wednesday night that concluded that if New York acted even one week earlier in ordering people to stay home and mandating social distancing, it would have spared more than 17,000 lives in the New York metro area.
The story identifies long-standing enmity between the mayor and Governor Andrew Cuomo as the reason the state’s response lagged while citing aspersions against one another. “Nevertheless,” Politico says, “By March 6, the city had yet to figure out an action plan. Cuomo had begun publicly discussing the virus’ spread in New York in February, saying a positive case was not an ‘if’ but ‘when.’ But when the first cases were confirmed, his ensuing actions focused on minimizing panic, and emphasizing statistics that suggested the disease would largely spare the young and healthy; that 80 percent of those infected would easily recover at home.”
A stay-at-home order, he said as late as March 18, wasn’t warranted. “The fear, the panic, is a bigger problem than the virus,” he told The Daily podcast.
De Blasio first began seeking more testing capacity from the federal government as early as January, but he too downplayed the threat of the disease, encouraging New Yorkers to go to restaurants and use the subways in early March.
“From what we do understand, you cannot contract it through casual contact so the subway is not the issue,” de Blasio said at the time.
Peter Staley the prominent HIV-Activist and an early leader of ACT-UP didn’t mince words nor hide his anger upon reading the Politico story writing in a post on Facebook Sunday morning, “This reminds me of how many years (decades!) of work it took older LGBTQ folk to push-back against the Reagan-was-a-great-president narrative that was relentlessly pushed by his legacy supporters (even young gays who remembered him as a nice granddad-like figure during their childhoods had to be taught the truth now that they’re adults). Eventually, we succeeded in getting most historians to add a big asterisk to his legacy — his unconscionable lack of response to the plague that started on his watch.”
Know this, Mayor de Blasio — we will do the same to your legacy. The big lie you told this week (below) won’t work. During the first half of March, your own health department was threatening to resign after showing you TONS of data on frightening hospital admissions (even while lacking the COVID tests you’re trying to hide behind). THEY knew, and they were SCREAMING at you to take action.
So now you’re passing the buck. Even worse, you’re retaliating against your health department, cementing your true legacy as an ARROGANT PRICK.
So for years and decades to come, if anyone writes about you, we will REMIND THEM about your damning asterisk — how you murdered around 20,000 New Yorkers.
<<< “I wish we had known so much more in January, February, the beginning of March. I wish we had the testing that would have told us what was going on,” de Blasio told reporters Thursday. “It’s very painful to think about, if we had had the testing we needed, everything we could have done differently. Or if we had known then the things we know now, what we would have been able to do for people. It’s horrible.” >>>