Cuomo Rips Into Trump: Pass Bucks, Not the Buck

A mother and daughter wearing face masks wait to cross a street in Harlem, New York, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Noting that the goal of reopening the economy is one the state and federal government share, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo closed out the week with a pithy message for the White House. 

“Don’t pass the buck without passing the bucks,” Cuomo said Friday at his daily press briefing in Albany. “Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No.”

Public health experts agree that widespread diagnostic testing, as well as contact tracing, will be necessary for the country to gradually reopen without triggering a second wave of Covid-19 infections. But the U.S. is not testing nearly enough.

Data about the toll the novel coronavirus has taken is still coming in. For the first time this morning, the state released nursing home fatality numbers as reported by the facilities themselves. Ten nursing homes across the state each lost more than 30 residents to the virus as of April 15. The Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn reported the 55 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in the state, followed by the Kings Harbor Multicare Center, which had 45. Both the Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Queens and Carmel Richmond Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center on Staten Island had 44.

A patient is wheeled out of Cobble Hill Health Center by emergency medical workers on Friday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Helen Ferraro-Zaffram, a managing attorney at the Center for Elder Law & Justice in western New York, offered some insight on why the data has taken so long to come out.

“There was no central repository for all this information,” she said in an interview.

Initially facilities were instructed to report any respiratory illnesses among their populations to local or state health departments. Now, a medical professional must make an initial determination of Covid-19 and then make reports to the administrator and the local health department — sometimes the state as well — before the information gets to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“So you’re talking about making sure that all these steps are kind of followed,” Ferraro-Zaffram said. “And, given the number of deaths in what’s happening, how quick is that information being able to be run up the chain ultimately to get to the CDC?”

Ferraro-Zaffram noted that the virus did not discriminate, taking its toll on facilities rated both one star and five by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. She said the lack of personal protective equipment for staff for contributed to the spread that some facilities faced.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that the city will open new walk-in testing centers in the Bronx; Staten Island; Harlem; East New York, which is a part of Brooklyn; and Jamaica, Queens. Those those 65 years and older, those with pre-existing conditions, and those who live in hard-hit areas of the city, particularly black and Latino neighborhoods, will all get priority for testing. Some of the centers opened today, and the rest open Monday.

Cuomo also announced Friday he would issue an executive order directing all public and private labs in New York state to cooperate with the Department of Health on widespread testing and restarting the economy. 

The state has 301 labs and hospitals that are licensed to do virology testing, the governor said, but acquiring the parts needed for the test kits — tubes, swabs and chemical solutions — poses “international challenges.” 

The National Governors Association, chaired by Maryland Republican Larry Hogan and co-chaired by Cuomo, has publicly requested $500 billion for states to combat the virus. 

“The allocation should be proportionate to the need,” Cuomo said Friday.

State and city virus statistics are all down Friday, though Covid-19 remains devastating across New York. On Thursday, 630 people died in the state from the virus, and approximately 2,000 new people are hospitalized per day statewide for the disease.

“That is still breathtaking in its pain and grief and tragedy,” Cuomo said of the latest fatality count. 

Later in the press conference, Cuomo unleashed frustration on the White House’s response to the pandemic. President Donald Trump appeared to be watching — he’d tweeted that the New York governor should “spend more time ‘doing’ and less time complaining” and that Cuomo had not been properly grateful for equipment sent to New York by the federal government. 

“Thank you for having the federal government participate in a federal emergency,” Cuomo quipped in a sizzling minutes-long diatribe, calling for more help from the feds.  

While Trump has issued conflicting and at times incorrect statements on whether states or the federal government should take charge of reopening, the plan he revealed last night shunts the responsibility to the states.

“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors on a call Thursday afternoon. 

Trump and Cuomo agree on the most basic point: “You can’t keep the economy closed forever,” Cuomo said Friday.

What the governor said he doesn’t want, however, is to replicate the chaos of begging the federal government for more personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies.

“If we don’t have federal help on testing, that is a real problem,” Cuomo said.

De Blasio also on Friday announced the cancellation of all nonessential large gatherings in May that require a permit, such as concerts, rallies, and large gatherings. It seems likely the June Pride parade will also be canceled. The city’s famed Shakespeare in the Park summer program is canceled as well, and beaches will likely be closed this summer.

As of midnight April 15, the most recent data available on the Department of Health’s Covid-19 tracker, New York state had 222,284 positive cases. As of April 16, New York City alone had 12,199 reported deaths — 7,890 confirmed to be Covid-19-related and another 4,309 probably related. 

The number of positive coronavirus cases in the U.S. eclipsed 662,000 Friday and nearly 30,000 Americans have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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