Even though he presides over the state with the most novel coronavirus cases and deaths, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken a victory lap this week to trumpet his state’s success in fighting the infection.
“You know we went through hell and back, as you know in New York, but we went from having, Jimmy, the worst infection rate in the country—we now have the best infection rate,” said Mr. Cuomo in a Monday segment on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” “So we really turned the corner.”
Earlier that day, he unveiled a poster called “New York Tough” that purported to chronicle the state’s saga in “pulling down the curve together,” featuring the shutdown, mask order, out-of-state ban, “the boyfriend cliff,” and gubernatorial quotes such as, “Wake up America! Forget the politics, get smart!”
“You don’t defeat a virus with politics. You defeat a virus with science and medicine,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
Mr. Cuomo also scolded other states for what he described as reopening too soon. “You had the other states rush to reopen like there was no problem, but there was a problem,” he said.
“You had to be smart. You had to get it under control. You had to do what we did,” said Mr. Cuomo. “You had to close down. People had to take precautions wearing the mask, right? We were the first state to say you had to wear a mask. You had to get the virus down. And that’s what we did.”
That self-congratulatory tone met with a stunned reception on social media, where commentators were quick to point out that New York still has more COVID-19 cases at 407,875 than any other state, as well as 32,092 deaths, or more than twice the number of the next-highest state, New Jersey, with 15,582.
On a per-capita basis, New York has notched 2,097 cases per 100,000 people, the highest in the nation, and 165 deaths per 100,000, second only to New Jersey with 175 deaths, as shown on the New York Times coronavirus map.
“Your inaction and infighting with the Mayor caused thousands of deaths,” progressive activist Shaun King tweeted. “Nearly every expert in the nation says had you acted sooner it could’ve saved nearly 10,000 lives. That you think it’s time for posters touting your ‘success’ is troubling.”
Some of the harshest criticism came from an unexpected source: CNN, where Mr. Cuomo’s brother Chris Cuomo hosts a show.
“NY state has lost more than 32,000 lives to COVID-19,” tweeted CNN host Jake Tapper. “So while it’s great that the numbers have gone down, it’s perplexing to see crowing, Cuomo going on Fallon, etc. No other state has lost as many lives, not even close. New Jersey is next with 17,000+.”
Mr. Tapper added: “Yes, this has been a major challenge for every leader, but New York’s leaders do not have a success story to tell. It’s been about missteps and late actions.”
The Democrat has been hotly criticized for his March 25 order requiring nursing homes to admit elderly test-positive patients, which he reversed May 10. In a report, the state argued that infected home workers were to blame for the deadly spread, while some experts in the field who spoke to the Associated Press said otherwise.
“They really need to own the fact that they made a mistake, that it was never right to send COVID patients into nursing homes and that people died because of it,” Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, told the AP.
In his interview with Mr. Fallon, the governor took numerous shots at President Trump, saying that he was “basically denying that the virus existed,” although the president closed off travel on Jan. 31 from China, where the virus originated.
Mr. Cuomo also waited until March 20, after California and Washington, to impose a stay-at-home order, as reported by the New York Times in an April 8 story, “How Delays and Unheeded Warnings Hindered New York’s Virus Fight.”
In his NBC interview, Mr. Cuomo said, “it wasn’t easy.”
“But look, long-term, it turned out better,” he said. “We’ve been open now for about two months as a state. And we have the infection rate way down low.”