New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump is “clearly spoiling for a fight,” but the coronavirus response “is no time for politics” and he wanted to work in partnership as the death toll in the Empire State continues to surge.
“The worst thing we can do in all of this is start with political division and start with partisanship. The best thing we have done throughout this past 44 days is we have worked together,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany, after stressing that “we don’t have a king in this country.” “This is too important for anyone to play politics. This is just about doing the right thing, working together.”
Despite Cuomo’s several television appearances on Tuesday slamming Trump for his claim of having “total” authority to reopen the nation’s virus-stalled economy, the governor stressed “the president will have no fight with me” as New York continues to struggle to contain the virus.
In the last 24 hours, 778 more people have died from the virus despite two days of declining numbers and indications that the worst of the pandemic may have passed. To date, 10,834 people have died and 196,146 have been infected with COVID-19 state-wide, accounting for almost 37 percent of the total reported cases in the U.S.
In New York City, the death toll increased by more than 3,700 on Tuesday after officials included people who have likely died from coronavirus without an official diagnosis, according to the city’s health department. The latest surge in New York City has increased the overall death toll in the United States by 17 percent.
Cuomo said that while the daily number of deaths increases, the most horrific phase of the deadly pandemic has passed in New York. The number of hospitalized patients dropped by 1 percent for the first time since the start of the outbreak in March. The number of patients on ventilators also fell for the second consecutive day.
“We changed the curve. A better way to say it—we are changing the curve every day,” Cuomo said, while conceding that the number of deaths in nursing homes was an “increasing issue.” “We control the virus, the virus doesn’t control us.”
While the numbers indicate New York can start a “gradual process” to reopening—in coordination with six surrounding states—Cuomo stressed that residents must still adhere to social distancing to continue the outbreak’s decline.
To start the process, Cuomo said New York first needs “aggressive” antibody and diagnostic testing, which would ultimately allow residents who have already had the virus—or are immune to it—to return to public life sooner. Ideally, Cuomo said, every New Yorker would take a test before returning to work, or entering a nursing home or hospital.
New York has developed a COVID-19 antibody test, and state officials are working with the FDA to get it approved; however, New York has very limited capacity to do tests. Cuomo previously asked the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to make tests because he doesn’t think the private sector can make enough.
“The worst scenario would be if we did all of this, we got that number down, and then we go to reopen and we reopen too fast,” Cuomo said, stressing while the state cannot “sustain” closure for “a long period of time,” the process has to be done carefully to avoid a resurgence of the virus.
The topic of when to remove lockdowns opened up a power struggle between Cuomo and Trump on Tuesday—after the president incorrectly claimed on Monday that he had “total authority” to decide when the nation can reopen.
“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s got to be—it’s total,” Trump said during a lengthy briefing. “And the governors know that.”
Legal experts have rebutted the assertion that a president can decide when to remove lockdowns and reopen states, stating it is up to the discretion of local leaders.
Cuomo also pushed back in four different television appearances on Tuesday, warning that the president’s attempt to override governors’ decisions would create “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades” and could put lives at risk.
In one interview, Cuomo said Trump’s belief was “schizophrenic” after he previously stated it was up to states to make public health orders and obtain medical equipment.
“If he says to me, ‘I declare it open,’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it,” Cuomo said in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Trump hit back in a series of tweets, one claiming that Cuomo had been “begging for everything” and, in another, accusing several “Democrat Governors” of starting a mutiny.
“Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility, such as new hospitals, beds, ventilators, etc,” the president first tweeted. “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!”
In the second tweet, which referenced the film Mutiny on the Bounty, Trump seemed to suggest governors were committing mutiny by making coordinated efforts to reopen their states.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Delaware—also known as the “COVID corridor”—said on Monday they will weigh the public health risks together before allowing companies to resume operations.
Of the seven states who signed on to the coordinated plan, accounting for more than half of the total U.S. confirmed cases and around 63 percent of deaths, six are governed by Democrats. Massachusetts is led by a Republican governor.
During Tuesday’s briefing, Cuomo said he’d repeatedly warned of the risks of reopening too early and that the country “didn’t want to have a king.”
But he ended the press conference with an olive branch. He said that, despite going on television to correct the president’s “factually wrong” statement about total authority, he was walking away from a fight with Trump because the virus is more important than politics.
“I put my hand out in total partnership and cooperation with the president,” Cuomo said. “This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is about New York—10,000 lives. Forget the darn politics. Everybody's tired of it.”
“If he wants a fight, he's not going to get it from me, period,” he added.