A Coronavirus Side Effect: All Eyes On Andrew Cuomo
Photo features Andrew Cuomo in front of medical supplies in NY, credit to Getty Images.
“I accept full responsibility. If someone is unhappy, somebody wants to blame someone or complain about someone, blame me,” said Andrew Cuomo in March.
With a pandemic raging worldwide, any concept of “normal” has been upheaved by many American citizens, especially those living in the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States: New York City. Andrew Cuomo assumed his role in 2011 as the 56th Governor of New York State, yet more recently, Cuomo seems to have taken on a leadership role beyond his elected position in the wake of the pandemic.
Cuomo’s articulate, calming voice echoes through countless television sets across the country, maintaining watchful eyes with his matter-of-fact updates and empathetic anecdotes during his daily press conferences on the pandemic. Cuomo’s awareness and actions have only increased in the time of panic, due to his proximity to suffering citizens in New York City.
“He’s in it. He’s not at Camp David or the White House. New York City is really the epicenter of the coronavirus in the world, not even just in the United States,” said Leo Raykher (‘22). “It’s an extremely important position, and I think he’s done a good job.”
Cuomo’s heightened accountability has provoked several comparisons to the country’s executive branch, which many argue has not taken the necessary measures to flatten the curve. Cuomo himself has criticized the federal approach to the virus as far too slow, which he expressed in a letter to Donald Trump in the Opinion section of the New York Times.
“State and local governments alone simply do not have the capacity or resources to do what is necessary, and we don’t want a patchwork quilt of policies,” said Cuomo in the beginning of his letter. He ended it with his simplified requests to help the country: “Localize testing, federalize shutdowns and task the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital capacity.”
Cuomo addressed the need for nationwide policies to assist the state ones put in place. Since New York State’s first reported case on March 1st, Cuomo’s work individually and with neighboring governors on his own state’s policies has taken effect in various forms of regulations.
“I think it was really good that he closed down the schools in New York City, even though that was a tough decision because obviously there’s a lot of people who will [face negative consequences],” said Avery Russell (‘22), when asked which of Cuomo’s decisions she liked. She also noted that she admired Cuomo’s work to create available hotlines for those suffering with their mental health.
“He’s been strict with the lockdown [and] put all these protocols in place,” said Leo, when asked the same question. “He’s been tough, but he’s still maintaining a good attitude and keeping morale up, which is important.” Leo is not the only person to appreciate Cuomo’s matter-of-fact nature amid this crisis.
“I appreciate that he doesn’t sugarcoat things. The truth is paramount in times like these,” said Henry Petrini (‘21).
Nevertheless, no leader is perfect; while Cuomo’s efforts have affected many issues sparked by the pandemic, there are countless others that he has yet to address on both a state and federal level.
“I have mixed feelings about Governor Cuomo’s response to the coronavirus. Although his press conferences have given New Yorkers a much-needed sense of stability during this time of crisis, he has made some harmful legislative decisions that hurt the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Nick Yohn (‘21). Nick outlines Cuomo’s 2021 executive budget proposals, released in mid-March, as one of these harmful decisions. These proposals, made in an attempt to balance the state budget, included 400 million dollar cuts from hospitals and more from senior health care programs.
“Going forward, I would urge Governor Cuomo to cancel rent payments until New York officially reopens and take action to stop the police brutality occurring in predominantly black neighborhoods in NYC to enforce social distancing,” Nick said, noting another frightening effect of coronavirus. The blatant inequality in the enforcing of social distancing regulations has become increasingly clear due to the immense brutality faced by black citizens of New York City. In the eyes of the New York City Police Department, large social gatherings attended by majority white citizens appear to pose no threat. Nevertheless, black citizens face assault and arrest for congregating in much smaller groups mere miles away.
Another byproduct of systemic racism which Cuomo has yet to properly address is the disproportionate poverty rate, which puts affected groups at increased risk in such a crisis. According to the United States Census Bureau in 2018, black Americans composed only 13.4% of the nation’s population, yet their poverty rate reflected a sobering 20.8%.
Articulating a consequence of this, Avery said, “African-Americans are really affected by this [because] they don’t have the proper healthcare system and they’re in areas that don’t always have good hospitals.”
Acknowledging Cuomo’s shortcomings is essential, even when offering praise for the work he has done well. Undoubtedly, his impact has spread to those beyond the borders of the state he governs and his popularity has only increased, and the good that his work has created in a time of uncertainty has become present in the lives of many Americans. Nevertheless, the common saying holds truth, that with great power comes great responsibility. With Cuomo as a leader on the rise who has shown potential to create tangible change, citizens can only hope that he will spread his benevolent influence to everyone affected, including those whose sufferings have to date remained unrecognized.