NEW YORK — President Donald Trump and the federal government must admit their coronavirus response mistakes and tell the truth to stop the dramatic spread of the virus across U.S. states and territories, Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed Monday.
National medical experts have urged federal officials to hit a makeshift “reset” button and close the economy again as the coronavirus exponentially increases in more than 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Restarting the nation’s COVID-19 response requires Trump and the federal government telling Americans the truth about the pandemic, Cuomo said during a briefing at his Manhattan office Monday afternoon.
Since February, the president has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and has equated the disease to the annual influenza outbreak. Until recently, Trump did not encourage the wearing of face masks or coverings and suggested the illness would disappear with warmer weather. He also pushed states to immediately reopen nonessential businesses when the virus was on the decline late in the spring.
“Those were all mistakes — they were all untruths,” the governor said. “Some people heard the president and believed him. Hit the reset button, but do it honestly. It starts with the president of the United States telling people the truth, which he did not do six months ago.”
Many other states did not learn from New York’s coronavirus outbreak from mid-March through May, and did not prepare adequate COVID-19 testing supplies or sites or establish contact tracing to control the spread.
“The reason they didn’t is because they listened to the president,” Cuomo said. “Tell them the truth. The truth is, COVID is serious. It’s deadly serious — and it’s deadly serious for all of us. It’s not a political issue and it shouldn’t have been politicized.
“None of us are safe until all of us are safe,” the governor added. “If we don’t tell the truth on the reset, COVID will never end and it will ricochet across the country.”
Americans are smart, Cuomo said, and know the federal government made a mistake.
“This was a colossal blunder how COVID was handled by this federal government; every American knows this was the worst blunder in modern history,” Cuomo said. “You don’t think they know it was a mistake? Then you don’t know the American people. If you don’t trust them or their intelligence or their ability to handle the information, you shouldn’t ask to be their leader.
“I told them the truth so they knew what to do and they did it. They should try it in Washington.”
Cuomo addressed the start of construction on St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, 130 Liberty St., in Lower Manhattan. The original St. Nicholas Church, at 155 Cedar St., was the only house of worship to be destroyed on 9/11. The Friends of St. Nicholas board and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey oversee the project.
“The Lord works in strange ways,” Cuomo said standing outside the structure late Monday morning. “Now is not the time to worry about the current circumstance. Now is the time to rally together to find our solidarity and say we are going to build back better and stronger.
“Yes, we went through 9/11, but we rise from the ashes and we rise stronger than ever before. That’s what this St. Nicholas will stand for.”
Cuomo urged school districts to designate a space to speak with parents and answer their specific questions about administrators’ reopening plans amid the pandemic. Districts were required to submit a detailed reopening plan to the state Friday.
Most parents continue to question how many students will be tested for the coronavirus, where a district will secure the testing supplies and capacity and how long test results will take. National laboratories are experiencing delays as thousands of COVID-19 tests are conducted daily in each state across the nation.
“They’re not going to trust the school district — that’s not going to be enough,” Cuomo said. “You look at some of these plans, they’re indecipherable. Parents are going to want to understand the information for themselves. Districts must answer parents’ questions.
“Nobody’s going to tell me to send my child to school ... I’m not going to trust what’s on a school district’s plan,” the governor added. “Parents have to feel comfortable, which means they have to be part of the process and we have to have a dialogue.”
Cuomo is expected to announce the state’s final decision to allow schools, colleges and universities to reopen by Friday.
The state started its four-phase, minimum two-month reopening of nonessential businesses May 15. Experts anticipated an initial surge of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and the transmission as industries resumed over the last two-and-a-half months, but the state’s COVID-19 numbers have continued an overall decline.
State police and the State Liquor Authority visited 874 establishments Sunday and issued violations to 29 New York City and Long Island businesses for noncompliance of the state’s coronavirus mandates, such as social distancing or wearing face masks in public. The task force inspected 3,047 downstate businesses from Friday through Sunday nights, issuing 106 violations.
Most violators continue to be in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island.
“Follow the rules,” Cuomo said. “If you don’t follow the rules, chances are, the likelihood is someone’s going to be there to watch and check. If you’re not following the rules, if I were you, I’d be worried.”
Hundreds of people were caught crowding on the Liberty Belle, a four-story riverboat that carries up to 600 passengers, without wearing face masks or social distancing late Saturday. Hundreds of New Yorkers were seen in social media videos over the weekend partying under the Kosciuszko Bridge in Brooklyn.
“How a charter boat could put together a crowd and leave is disrespectful and illegal,” the governor said. “It not only violates public health, it violates common decency. Look at all the people you endangered. it is really reckless, rude, irresponsible and illegal.”
The state reported 536 virus patients in the hospital Monday — the lowest since March 17.
Three New Yorkers died from the virus Sunday — equal to three deaths Saturday, bringing the three-day rolling average to three deaths, which is the lowest figure since mid-March. The state’s virus-related fatalities have fluctuated below 15 per day for several weeks.
To see where each region stands on reopening and the complete county breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide, view the COVID-19 map and tracker at hudsonvalley360.com/site/covid19.html.