Minutes after a slew of Hollywood A-Listers presented Andrew Cuomo with an Emmy award for his TV appearances during this spring’s wave of coronavirus cases, New York’s governor revealed today’s deadly reality in the state: Hospitals are overwhelmed, new emergency sites are being opened, and the toll is only going to get worse as we enter the holiday season and winter.
“These are dangerous times that we are in,” Cuomo said during a press briefing Monday in New York City. “How do you forget about all the pain that we went through? If we’re not careful, we will go back there.”
Hospitalizations across the Empire State have increased by 122 percent in three weeks, a dark statistic that’s only expected to worsen after what Cuomo called the holiday season’s “37 days of socialization.” He also announced an “emergency facility for COVID patients” will open at South Beach on Staten Island—stating the borough has “the highest infection rates in the city.”
“Staten Island is a serious problem. Staten Island is also a problem in terms of overburdening hospitals, and we’re running into a hospital capacity issue that we have to be dealing with over these next few days," Cuomo said, adding “surge capacities” already threatening already overwhelmed hospitals in West New York.
The state, which has a test positivity rate of 3.08 percent, reported 33 COVID-19 deaths overnight, bringing the total death toll to 33,767. Cuomo also indicated Upper Manhattan and parts of Long Island are joining the list of “cluster zones,” and pleaded with residents to make the safest decisions during the holiday season and stay home to slow the surge that’s only expected to worsen in the state once deemed the virus’ epicenter in the United States.
“It’s about life and death,” Cuomo said, before offering a story about his daughter crying to him on the phone about now having Thanksgiving together. “We are in a place now with bad synergy.”
Hours later, during an interview on WAMC, Cuomo admitted he was still having an in-person Thanksgiving despite his pleas for New Yorkers to stay home, stating he was spending the holiday with his 89-year old mother and two daughters in Albany.
“The story is, my mom is going to come up and two of my girls. But the plans change,” Cuomo said.
Amid outrage over his rogue holiday dinner, one of Cuomo’s senior advisers issued a statement Monday afternoon saying the governor will actually be working during Thanksgiving.
“As he also said the plans were still changing and given the current circumstances with COVID, he will have to work through Thanksgiving and will not be seeing them. Don't tell his mom—she doesn't know yet,” Richard Azzopardi said.
When asked about whether there will be enforcement of social distancing for Thanksgiving, which he says is one part of a “toxic cocktail” for a COVID-19 spike, the governor said it’s an “underlying point of this discussion. To date, Cuomo ordered restaurants and bars licensed by the State Liquor Authority to close at 10 p.m. (although pickup is allowed at any time). Additionally, Cuomo has cracked down on indoor gatherings, banning parties of more than 10 people in a private residence.
“It’s an emotional time and everyone has their own opinion. Sheriffs upstate who say they won’t enforce the law, I believe, are violating constitutional duty,” Cuomo said. “You don’t have the right to pick laws you want to enforce. That’s a dictator. You can’t pick and choose. If that’s the way you run your agency, I don’t consider it a law-enforcement agency. God bless you, but don’t ask me for help. I believe it sets a dangerous precedent.”
But Cuomo’s latest alarm bells in the form of his now-infamous press briefings came just minutes after the Democratic leader was awarded an International Emmy Founders Award for his response during the COVID-19 crisis. The award, which is presented to an individual who “crosses cultural boundaries to touch our common humanity,” was presented by a slew of celebrities, including Spike Lee, Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Rosie Perez, Billy Crystal, and Billy Joel.
“You are the epitome of New York tough,” comedian Billy Crystal said.
During the presentation, in which Joel called him “America’s governor,” the celebrities focused on Cuomo’s early decision to keep Americans updated daily on the coronavirus response as essential to quenching the early outbreak in the state.
“The governor’s 111 daily briefings worked so well because he effectively created television shows, with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure,” International Academy President and CEO Bruce L. Paisner said. “People around the world tuned in to find out what was going on, and New York tough became a symbol of the determination to fight back.”
When asked about the award during his Monday press briefing, Cuomo admitted he was “flattered” to receive the award once given to Oprah Winfrey, former Vice President Al Gore, and Steven Spielberg—but “then i looked into it.
“It’s flattering but it’s also symbolic. For it to be personalized to me, I’m just a symbol of a larger effort involving people around me,” Cuomo said, before jokingly adding that “no one mentioned the charisma, or the good looks or the charm” when presenting him the award.