LONG ISLAND, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has blasted a statement by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and said the federal government was "just wrong" in its response to the coronavirus.
Meadows, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, said: "We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas."
The words had Cuomo seeing red.
"I had a revelation over the weekend," Cuomo said Monday. "The great federal COVID mystery resolved for me. I couldn't understand why the federal government had been taking the approach that they had taken on COVID from the very beginning. Why, when they knew in January, and they got the Peter Navarro memo, that 100 million people could be infected, why did they do nothing back in January? Why do they keep denying COIVD? Why did the federal government basically abdicate responsibility and leave it to the states? Why was the federal approach devoid of following the science? I couldn't understand it, until I heard the chief of staff on television this weekend."
Cuomo said the federal government has said it could cannot control the pandemic, that all it can do is develop a vaccine and a therapeutic, and has believed it "from Day One .... And, that was, in my opinion, factually a wrong premise back in January. It was the wrong conclusion. It is a threshold issue, because if you believe you can't control it, then you don't even try. And the federal government has never tried to control the virus. Their focus has always been, 'We need to get a vaccine quickly.' It was, in effect, preemptive capitulation."
The feds believed only two options existed, to close down the economy or let the virus spread, Cuomo said. But the third option, one it didn't consider, was that the spread of the virus can be controlled by a phased economic opening. "It was never binary," he said. "It was never 'Let's keep the economy open' versus 'Let's attend to public health.' It was always both."
New York's numbers, with the third-lowest infection rate in a nation where the number of positive coronavirus cases is continuing to soar, indicates that the state has controlled the virus, Cuomo said. "The chief of staff says you can't control the pandemic. New York says you're wrong, because we did," Cuomo said.
In the early days of COVID, every projection model indicated that there would be between 100,000 and 140,000 people hospitalized in New York, Cuomo said. "What did we do? We flattened the curve. Rather than the virus going up, we flattened the curve," he said. "We only had 18,000 people hospitalized. Why? Because we controlled the spread. God didn't intervene and change the numbers."
It's important, the governor added, to control the virus throughout the vaccine period, after a solution has been found on how to administer 330 million doses of the vaccine.
"You have to continue to control the virus spread, and you have to do that now. ... You have to control it. Otherwise, too many people are going to die."
New York has embraced the micro-cluster strategy, stamping out the virus in small neighborhoods where it sparks, Cuomo said.
"What is the micro-cluster? You see a spread, you run, you attack it, you keep putting out these flames. It is COVID Whack-A-Mole," Cuomo said.
He added that the way to slow the spread is increased testing, targeting and a focused attack.
"They're actually reducing testing which is the key to getting the information you actually need to control it. Why do you reduce testing? See no COVID, hear no COVID, speak no COVID. Reduce the number of tests, that will reduce the number of cases, and then the problem goes away," Cuomo said.
He offered an analogy: "Police don't arrest anybody and then we can say the crime rate is very low because there were no arrests. ... Don't take the tests, then you won't have the positives and then it will look and feel like there's nothing going on. Are you kidding me? How do you deny a virus? How do you deny a shooting? It's a crime that occurred."
The federal government is "giving up," he said. Waiting for a vaccine may be deadly, he added.
"Too many people are going to die by the time you operationalize the vaccine," Cuomo said.
The governor asked why America, the "greatest country on the planet," gave up and lost the war, with an average of 208 daily new cases per million residents over the last seven days, as opposed to Japan, with four, and Mexico, with 44.
"The federal government was just wrong," he said.
On Monday, Cuomo reported that the rate of positivity in the "red," or micro-cluster, zones was 3.2; statewide without the red zones, that number stands at 1.1 percent; and with the red zones factored in, at 1.4 percent. A total of 12 people died Sunday, hospitalizations stood at 1,059, the number of patients in ICU was 337, and the number of patients intubated was 118.
"Compliance and enforcement work," he said.
Mask initiative unveiled
On Monday, Cuomo also announced a new initiative: The RealReal is working with top fashion designers to create masks, with all profits to go to charities.
In addition, to keep masks in the spotlight, the Mask Up challenge began Monday, with people invited to post a selfie on social media and invite five friends to do the same, Cuomo said.