Should New York eye a return to normal life soon? Not so fast, Cuomo says

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Whenever New York state decides to restart life after the current coronavirus “PAUSE,” Governor Andrew Cuomo made clear on Saturday it will be done on a coordinated basis.

Cuomo threw cold water on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement earlier Saturday morning that all New York City public schools would remain shut down through the end of the 2019-20 school year in June. Instruction would continue on a remote basis.

But the governor — who originally ordered New York City, Long Island and Westchester County schools closed on March 16 — said schools in the region, as well as businesses, should reopen at the same time. Cuomo also expressed hope New York would do so in concert with New Jersey and Connecticut, leading to a resumption of the entire tri-state economy.

“The mayor has an opinion on New York City. [Nassau County Executive] Laura Curran will have an opinion, [Suffolk County Executive] Steve Bellone will have an opinion” on when schools should reopen, Cuomo said, “but I want to coordinate all those opinions and reopen them at the same time.”

The question for the governor is when to reopen schools and the economy — and the answer is still uncertain.

“We have to think before we act. These are all big decisions,” he said. “Reopening is a public health question and an economic question, and I’m unwilling to divorce the two.”

Cuomo said the state would put together a blue ribbon panel of experts who would help make recommendations as to when and how to restart New York state. They will look at restart efforts in other coronavirus-stricken countries, such as China and Italy, to minimize the potential of a second major coronavirus outbreak here.

As for the current epidemic, Cuomo quoted Winston Churchill in observing New York appeared to be at “the end of the beginning” of the crisis.

The curve is flattening, the governor said, pointing to decreases in the three-day averages for hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and intubations statewide. Yet another 783 New Yorkers died of coronavirus Friday — the fifth-straight day in which the COVID-19 daily death toll exceed 700 in the Empire State.

More than 8,600 New Yorkers have died since the pandemic spread here in March.

“These are just incredible numbers depicting incredible loss and pain,” Cuomo said.

While acknowledging that just about everyone wants a return to normal life before coronavirus, the governor stressed that rushing to reopen New York would do more harm than good, putting more at danger of contracting coronavirus.

“There is no political conspiracy theory” behind the shutdown related to coronavirus, Cuomo said. “It’s uncharted waters for all of us. Let’s focus on the facts and data and make decisions based on that.”

Cuomo repeated the belief that expanding testing across the state will be critical toward getting New York back on its feet. He also called on federal lawmakers to pass a new relief package that would help compensate New York for coronavirus-related medical expenses and repeal the SALT (state and local tax) deduction.

Passed in 2018, the SALT provision of the federal tax code allows filers to deduct up to $10,000 in paid state and local taxes on their federal returns. Critics say it has caused financial losses for New York and other “high-tax” states.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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