For weeks, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to “go about your lives” as fears of the novel coronavirus spread, advice that has come back to haunt him as the pandemic takes a deadly toll on the Big Apple.
Asked Sunday about whether his message was in part to blame for the virus’s rapid spread, however, Mr. de Blasio told CNN’s Jake Tapper that this was no time for hindsight.
“Well, Jake, we should not be focusing in my view on anything looking back on any level of government right now,” Mr. de Blasio said on “State of the Union.” “This is just about how we save lives going forward. We all were working, everybody was working with the information we had, and trying of course to avoid panic.”
He added, “I mean, this was a very different world just a short time ago. But the bottom line is, we none of us have time to look backwards. I’m trying to figure out how we get through Sunday, next Sunday, and then what we do the week after that. And that’s the only thing we should be talking about in this country.”
In late January, Mr. de Blasio said, “It’s important just to go about your lives, continue living as you have,” a message that he repeated in February with statements such as, “This should not stop you from going about your life, should not stop you from going to Chinatown and going out to eat.”
As late as a March 11 press conference, the mayor said that health people should still dine out, noting “the virus does not transmit through food and drink,” and adding, “If you’re not sick, then you should be going about your life.”
Such advice has not aged well, especially since Mr. de Blasio has since accused President Trump of being slow to react. On March 18, he accused the president of “taking actions that are far, far behind the curve.”
Was the mayor slow to respond? He said Sunday he didn’t think so, citing his previous calls for more COVID-19 testing.
“Jake, I in real time said, and this was weeks and weeks ago, as it was happening, that we were not being given the testing we needed,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I think the big historical point here that will be looked back on is, if this country had had the testing when we needed it, this could have been a very different reality.”
He continued: “But there’s no time to go back over that. There’s only time to focus on getting through the next week and the week after that.”