‘The illness is death. What is worse than death?…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that if New Yorkers are eager to get back to work during the Wuhan virus pandemic, they should find jobs that his administration has deemed “essential.”
“You want to go to work, go take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow,” Cuomo said during a press briefing on Wednesday. “There are people hiring. You can get a job as an essential worker, so now you can go to work and now you are an essential worker and now you won’t kill anyone.”
Cuomo’s suggestion that citizens — working in jobs categorized among New York’s broad “essential” list — will not spread the coronavirus defies multiple reports detailing COVID-19 outbreaks in grocery stores, warehouses, and other industries that have remained open.
One man, for example, was linked to at least 70 cases in Westchester because he commuted to his “essential” job every day using mass public transit.
Cuomo, however, has refused to shut down public transit, claiming “there’s no reason to do so.”
At least 41 public transit employees have died from the coronavirus, according to the New York Times, and more than 6,000 more have fallen sick or self-quarantined.
“We’re seeing a lot of our co-workers getting sick or dying. The morale is down. It is very, very bad,” Nasar Abdurrahman, a bus operator, told the Times.
There are dozens of other businesses to which Cuomo has granted exceptions, including dog grooming facilities, building cleaning, and designing, printing, publishing, and signage companies. Apparently these workers are less likely to “kill” others than workers in other industries, according to Cuomo, by virtue of their “essential” status.
Cuomo also dismissed concerns that unemployed New Yorkers won’t be able to pay their bills on time.
“You will be paid!” Cuomo insisted. “We are talking about a couple of days of lag, and they will get that the date of unemployment.”
Citizens (and President Trump) protesting shelter-in-place orders across the country have made the point that the cure can’t be worse than the problem.
“These are regular people who are not getting a paycheck and they’re saying that they don’t have time to wait for all of this testing and they need to get back to work in order to feed their families,” a local reporter told Cuomo during the press conference.
Cuomo responded and said that the only thing New Yorkers should be worried about right now is “death.”
“The illness is death,” he said, “What is worse than death?”
Economic failure is not as big of a problem as the coronavirus, Cuomo added.
“It doesn’t equal death,” he said. “Economic hardship, yes, very bad, not death.”
Cuomo has struggled to provide consistent messaging throughout this public health crisis. Last month, he demanded that the Trump administration send New York 40,000 ventilators. Trump refused, arguing that Cuomo’s number was far beyond what the state needed. Sure enough, Cuomo announced last week that he’d be donating ventilators to other states.
The governor also said last week that the U.S. Navy’s massive medical ship, the USNS Comfort, is no longer needed, since hospitalizations continue to decrease. Cuomo then turned around and said that New York will be unable to open until the Trump administration provides more testing.
“This is a very big issue,” Cuomo said.