'A pure hypocrite': De Blasio blasts Trump over coronavirus aid

J. Brady McCollough
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, at his news briefing on Tuesday, holds up a copy of the New York Post featuring President Trump on the cover.  (New York Post)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio woke Tuesday morning to a cover of the New York Post featuring President Trump and a headline declaring there would be “no bailout for New York.”

In a city beaten down by more than 19,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, De Blasio began his daily briefing by holding the newspaper up to the camera and delivering an attack at the man staring back at him from the page.

“The president of the United States, a former New Yorker who seems to enjoy stabbing his hometown in the back,” De Blasio said. “What kind of human being sees the suffering here and decides that the people of New York City don’t deserve help?

“Well, I’ll tell you something. Every day President Trump resembles more and more Herbert Hoover, the president who ignored the Great Depression, who didn’t care to put America back on its feet. President Trump wasn’t there for us when we needed testing to stop this horrible disease, and now he’s talking about not helping us in our hour of need. He says he’s not inclined to do bailouts, but he gave a $58-billion bailout to the airline industry and gave a $1.5-trillion bailout to big corporations and the wealthy.

“He’s a pure hypocrite.”

Nearly two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has not yet passed a stimulus plan that sends help to the states for managing their growing debts. The $2.2-trillion stimulus passed in late March sent $150 billion to states but was limited to direct use helping with the public health emergency.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the state has a $13-billion debt, created in large part by the loss of tax revenue since the novel coronavirus outbreak shut down the economy, an amount that makes an eventual reopening impossible without federal aid.

Other states announced Tuesday that they are facing major financial strife. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said that his state will cut $775 million from its budget the next two months. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said his state projects a $2.4-billion deficit because of the virus' impact.

"There is a long winter ahead. COVID-19 is upending life as we know it — and our economy will not be spared," Walz tweeted.

In Trump's interview with the Post, he addressed the question of whether to offer support to states along political lines.

“It’s not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help — they’re run by Democrats in every case,” Trump said. “Florida is doing phenomenal, Texas is doing phenomenal, the Midwest is, you know, fantastic — very little debt. … I don’t think the Republicans want to be in a position where they bail out states that are, that have been mismanaged over a long period of time.”

To that idea, De Blasio responded: “The president is playing politics while people are suffering. He says it right out loud there. Who cares who runs the states? The people need help! Because they live in a state or city run by a Democrat, does that make them less American in your view, Mr. President? It’s absolutely unacceptable. We’ve never seen anything like it in the entire history of this republic.

“All we’re asking to do is get back on our feet so we can contribute to this national recovery. There’s not going to be a national recovery without New York City.”

Cuomo, who has been bringing up this topic for weeks, used a more measured approach Tuesday during his briefing. He said that New York state had added $116 billion to federal coffers since 2015 and that many Democratic-governed states have given far more to the federal government than they take out. New York and other Democratic-run states with high COVID-19 case numbers, such as California and Illinois, weren't seeking federal help until the pandemic, he said. In New York state, the disease has killed more than 25,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Cuomo said the “mismanagement” rested with America’s partisan Congress.

“The virus doesn’t pick Democrats or Republicans. It doesn’t kill Democrats and Republicans. It kills Americans," Cuomo said. "... If we can’t get past this now, when can we ever get past it?”

Cuomo did not attack Trump as directly as De Blasio did, saying he believed the president was simply adopting talking points from other influential Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But Cuomo did issue a challenge to the White House: The next federal stimulus package must include help for state and local governments — or Trump will have cemented an unfavorable place in history.

“The president is looking at a scenario where either he is responsible and bridges the gap or they will not pass any legislation and then he will have failed, and this nation will suffer,” Cuomo said.

This back-and-forth between Trump and the New York leaders comes a day after the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington raised its projection for American deaths from COVID-19 by August from 72,433 to 134,000.

A patient is transported at NYU Langone Hospital in New York City on April 30.  (Getty Images)

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 71,000 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, with confirmed cases exceeding 1.2 million.

IHME's projections reflect "the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11," it said in a statement, "indicating that growing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus."

On Monday, Cuomo announced a detailed plan for reopening his state that would begin May 15 on a region-by-region basis. On Tuesday, though, he wanted to be clear about what reopening means.

“The fundamental question, which we’re not articulating, is, how much is a human life worth?” Cuomo said. “There is a cost of staying closed, no doubt, an economic cost. There’s also a cost of reopening quickly. The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost but the higher the human cost because of more lives lost. That, my friends, is the decision we are really making.

“To me, I say, the cost of a human life is priceless. Period.”

Cuomo announced that New York lost 230 more lives on Monday, up from 226 the day before.

He took heat from reporters Tuesday as New York reported more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities. At least 4,813 people have died from COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by Cuomo late Monday that includes people believed to have been killed by the disease before their diagnoses could be confirmed by a lab test.

The jump in deaths drew fresh attention to the state’s March 25 policy that said “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to a nursing home solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”

Cuomo said that nursing homes have the right to deny a COVID-19 patient’s return and that the state has facilities for such patients to stay between a visit to the hospital and returning to the nursing home. But Cuomo put the onus on nursing homes to make that call and seek the proper channels.

“We can’t turn hospitals into nursing homes,” he said.

The coronavirus outbreak has devastated nursing homes in many states, including Washington and California.

On Tuesday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis went on Twitter to laud his policies on nursing homes. “In Florida we took swift action to protect our elderly and vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities,” he tweeted, and thanked Fox News for “highlighting these efforts.”

Later, DeSantis appeared at a drive-through testing site in Sarasota, where he held a briefing on where the state stands in its partial reopening. He framed his state — with more than 1,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins — as a coronavirus success story, though experts have warned that reopening before a state's cases have consistently declined and widespread testing is available could cause a second wave.

DeSantis touted his policy that does not allow COVID-19 patients to return to nursing homes without two negative tests. “The other states that send COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes, that’s not been a good standard of practice,” he said. More than 420 residents or staff members at long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, the state Department of Health reported last week.

The governor also promised that 200,000 antibody tests would be available for Floridians soon.

In New York City, De Blasio said that 140,000 antibody tests were coming available for use by first-responders and healthcare workers. The mayor thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for facilitating the help — and he asked for more, from the federal government, and from Trump in particular.

“Anyone watching with a heart and soul would say, ‘I want to help these people because they’ve done something so good, so decent,’ ” De Blasio said. “We’re just asking the president of the United States to care, actually care, about the people of this city, regardless of politics. You’d think a president who grew up here might have a special feeling for this place, might go out of his way to help his hometown. I’ll give him another chance to show that there’s a beating heart there, but these moments today show me something very cold.”

A few hours after De Blasio's plea, Trump tweeted, "Well run States should not be bailing out poorly run States, using CoronaVirus as the excuse!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.