'Job one has to be save lives': Cuomo implores Trump not to rush toward reopening the economy at the expense of human life

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during his daily news conference amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 20, 2020 in New York City.

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  • As President Donald Trump signaled he wants to reopen the US economy amid a pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday urged him not to put a dollar sign on human life. 
  • "No American is going to say, 'accelerate the economy at the cost of human life.' Because no American is going to say how much a life is worth," Cuomo said during a press conference on coronavirus. 
  • New York has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday pleaded with President Donald Trump to not rush toward reopening the economy and risk human lives amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump has expressed impatience with the stringent measures taken to quell the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Nonessential businesses have been shuttered and entire cities have been virtually shutdown to ensure the virus doesn't spread like wildfire.

Though Trump last week appeared to defend these moves by stating the US is on a "wartime footing," he's shifted this week to stating he wants the US to restart the economy — even if it means people will die because less precautions are being taken. 

"Our country was not built to be shut down," Trump said Monday. "We are going to be opening up our country for business because our country was meant to be open."

During a Tuesday press conference, Cuomo said he understood Trump's concerns about the economy, but stressed that saving lives had to be the top priority. 

"I want to make a point on the president's point about the economy and public health. I understand what the president is saying, this is unsustainable that we close down the economy and we continue to spend money. There is no doubt about that, no one is going to argue about that," Cuomo said. "But if you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it's no contest. No American is going to say, 'accelerate the economy at the cost of human life.' Because no American is going to say how much a life is worth."

"Job one has to be save lives. That has to be the priority," Cuomo added. 

Cuomo said the US cannot view older people, or those who are most vulnerable to the virus, as expendable. 

"My mother is not expendable. And your mother is not expandable...We're not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable. We're not going to put a dollar figure on human life," Cuomo said. "We are going to fight every way we can to save every life that we can. Because that's what I think it means to be an American."

 

During Tuesday's press conference, Cuomo also implored Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to pressure the private sector to produce ventilators New York hospitals desperately need to combat the pandemic. "Where are the ventilators?" Cuomo said. "The president says it's a war. It is a war! Well then act like it's a war!"

New York has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, with roughly half of all cases in the country.

As he urged the federal government to act, Cuomo warned that New York was a bellwether for the rest of the country regarding coronavirus. "What happens to New York is going to wind up happening to California and Washington state and Illinois," Cuomo said.

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