Five days after I had a COVID-19 test at the drive-up lab at Jones Beach, a nice woman from the state’s Department of Health called to inform me (thankfully) the test was negative.
I wanted to take the test because a week before I had attended the protest in Great Neck Plaza and was preparing to meet up with my children for a camping/hiking trip at a New York State park (campgrounds reopened!). The last thing I wanted to do was to export the virus to them.
I was amazed at how easy and efficient (and free) the state has made the process at a state-run center of which there are now hundreds.
On one day alone, New York conducted 68,000 tests – the most per capita of any state or nation; the state publishes the daily number of positives and the rate of infection and studies whether the numbers are increasing or not.
Where there is a significant change, they do contact tracing to discover the source – most recently at an apple processing plant in Oswego – and decide whether to pull back or modify reopening strategies.
As a result, after becoming the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic with more cases and more deaths than anywhere on the planet, in just 100 days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his team have brought New York from the highest rate of infection to the lowest, even as 21 other states are showing spikes after their haphazard and politicized reopening process.
The U.S., with 5 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 25 percent of the COVID cases and deaths – an indictment of the inadequate public health system and interference of political ideology over science.
Most significantly, the White House models for the number of Americans who would die from COVID-19, in just one week, were raised by 30,000. The experts now expect 200,000 to die by October. And that’s still only the “first wave,” with months to go before a vaccine is feasible.
A Columbia University study showed that if the Trump administration had promoted social distancing even a week earlier, 36,000 lives could have been saved; a week earlier than that and 54,000 fewer Americans would have died.
One can only imagine how many New York lives would have been saved if Trump’s intelligence apparatus had alerted the state to the infection coming in from Europe.
Before the White House banned European travel, 3 million people came in through New York airports. But then, as now, Trump and Pence are simply wishing the coronavirus to magically disappear and making it a show of political loyalty to disregard wearing a mask, social-distancing or the advice of health experts.
And to the long list the respected institutions destroyed by Trump, include the Center for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health.
On Day 110, Cuomo, in the last of this unbroken chain of daily briefings (which have drawn 59 million people desperate for real information), said, “Wake up America. Look at what they’re telling you. These are not rhetorical, conceptual, or hyperbolic. They told you based on what you’re doing last week 30,000 more people are going to die…
“We changed what we were doing and we saved tens of thousands of lives. That’s what America should do. There are two different visions – One is based on science and fact and one is based on politics and public relations. The results are in. In New York, we’re saving lives, the virus is down; in the rest of the nation it’s going up.”
On Day 111, Cuomo gave his last daily briefing (note: Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force hasn’t held a briefing in two months and barely meets at all; Dr. Tony Fauci was barred from appearing on TV), in which Cuomo reflected on how this miraculous 180-degree turnabout from worst on the planet to best in the nation came about: a triumph of unity, working together, of the best aspects of government of, for, and by the people.
“This is not over – we must monitor the infection rate, make sure local governments enforce, watch for a second wave, watch out for the virus coming in from other states. But over the past 3 months, we have done the impossible…
“We reopened the economy and saved lives. It never was a choice between the economy and public health. It was always right to do both.”
Then, he reflected, “I ask myself – and today I ask you – why did it take a crisis to bring us together? Why does government usually appeal to the worst of us rather than best, why does politics play to our fears, our weaknesses, rather than our strengths?
Why doesn’t government challenge us to reach higher, speak to our better angels, motivate by love rather than hate? Why doesn’t government urge us to realize we are members of the same community, the same family, that we all benefit when we all work together?
Isn’t that what we showed over the past 111 days, that working together works, if I protect you, you protect me; I wear a mask for you, you wear it for me, if I care for you, you care for me? We showed in the end, love does conquer all, how dark the day, love brings the light.
“That’s what I will take from the past 111 days ..there is nothing we can’t do, we will be better, we will be stronger for what we have gone through… It shows us we have the potential to do more and we will do more.
“New York will lead the nation on police reform, building back better, reenergizing economy. We will welcome a new era of civil rights and social justice. I know we can. We learned that our better angels are stronger than our demons, and sometimes we just need to listen for them. Over the past 111 days we heard them. It was beautiful. Let’s keep listening together.”