Dressed in a dark suit and a pink tie, framed by both the American and New York State flags, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held his last regularly scheduled coronavirus press briefing on Friday and declared to his fellow New Yorkers, in an almost Churchillian manner, that a common foe had been defeated.
"Over the past three months we have done the impossible," Cuomo said at the briefing held at the State Capitol in Albany. "We are controlling the virus better than any state in the country, any nation in the globe. I am so incredibly proud of what we all did together and as a community. We reopened the economy and we saved lives -- because it was never a choice between one or the other. It was always right to do both."
The governor's briefing was the 111th straight since New York City confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 1. Since the, there have been 386,000 confirmed cases in New York State and, at last count, 24,661 deaths.
Cuomo noted that those losses were an undeniable tragedy, but added that the death toll would have been much higher if New Yorkers hadn't embraced the wearing of masks and of social distancing, while also cooperating with the executive order that shut down most of the state's businesses for more than three months.
"We all benefit when we work together. We showed that in the end, love does win -- that no matter how dark the day, love brings the light. That is what I will take from the past 111 days," Cuomo said, his voice occasionally wavering. "If we could accomplish this impossible task of beating back this deadly virus, there is nothing we can't do. And we will be better."
But he warned that the victory over COVID-19 was not yet complete, and that New Yorkers need to remain vigilant, even as New York City begins to enter Phase 2 of post-lockdown on Monday.Over the course of three months, a different Andrew Cuomo seemed to emerge, unfamiliar to even those reporters who covered him on a regular basis.Getty Images
"COVID isn’t over … We still have much more to do," Cuomo said. "We have to watch out for a second wave, we have to watch out for possible infections coming now from other states." The day before, Cuomo had speculated that New York might have to quarantine visitors from Florida, where new coronavirus infections have begun to spike, noting the irony that decision would carry. (In March, when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic , Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had mandated through an executive order that travelers arriving in Florida from the New York tri-state area self-isolate for 14 days.)
Over the course of the past 111 days, Cuomo usually appeared with just a few aides, briefing a small group of socially distanced reporters, but these briefings were carried live on most state TV stations and even by the national cable networks for a while. For many New Yorkers they became must-see TV, and even attracted the occasional celebrity, like Chris Rock and Rosie Perez.
And they also showed a side of the often-prickly Cuomo unfamiliar to many New Yorkers, even to those reporters who knew him best.
"I have covered Mr. Cuomo for seven years as The Times’s Albany bureau chief and a statehouse reporter, during which time the governor has twice won re-election and more than once disagreed with my reporting and that of my colleagues." the New York Times reporter Jessie McKinley wrote in a first person piece earlier this week. "And after all that time, I was pretty confident I knew the man: The governor’s reputation was of a pure political pragmatist with an ironclad grip on Albany’s levers of power. And that was just what his friends said."
But then the coronavirus hit and a different Cuomo emerged -- still tightly controlling and thin-skinned (more than once he challenged McKinley's reporting), but "more human." Wrote McKinley: "He spoke with empathy about the loss of life and the courage of front-line workers. He worried aloud about his family, including his mother, his three daughters, and his brother Chris Cuomo, a television anchor who contracted the coronavirus."
There is no doubt that this pandemic has changed us all. Even, it seems, Andrew Cuomo.