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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held his position on keeping non-essential businesses closed in the state and argued that economic hardships are not “worse than death.”
The Democrat governor dismissed complaints by New Yorkers wanting to get back to work and dealing with a trove of emotional and physical issues brought about by lost income and lockdowns, telling a reporter in a news briefing that people should get a job as an essential worker.
In a lengthy exchange with Cuomo during his daily press briefing on Wednesday, WRGB reporter Anne McCloy attempted to plead the case for protesters she had spoken with who were demonstrating outside of the meeting in Albany.
“I don’t know if you can hear but there are protesters outside right now honking their horns and raising signs. We did speak to a few of them before we came in and these are regular people who are not getting a paycheck. Some of them are not getting their unemployment check,” McCloy began.
— Emily DeFeciani (@CBS6_Emily) April 22, 2020
“And they’re saying that they don’t have time to wait for all of this testing and they need to get back to work in order to feed their families, their savings is running out, they don’t have another week, they’re not getting answers,” McCloy continued. “So, their point is ‘the cure can’t be worse than the illness itself.’ What is your response to that?”
“The illness is death. What is worse than death?” Cuomo replied.
“But what if someone commits suicide because they can’t pay their bills?” the reporter asked.
“Yeah, but the illness is maybe my death, as opposed to your death,” the governor countered. “You said they said, ‘the cure is worse than the illness’. The illness is death. How can the cure be worse than the illness if the illness is potential death?”
“What if the economy failing is equal to that?” McCloy pressed.
“Worse than death?” Cuomo shot back.
“Because mental illness, the people stuck at home — ” McCloy attempted again.
“No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t equal death,” the three-term New York governor insisted, making the case that deaths from the coronavirus are worse than the financial and emotional stresses people — including victims of domestic abuse — are experiencing.
“Economic hardship: Yes, very bad, not death. Emotional stress from being locked in a house: Very bad, not death. Domestic violence on the increase: Very bad, not death. And not death of someone else,” he said.
“See that’s what we have to factor into this equation. Yeah, it’s your life, do whatever you want. But, you’re now responsible for my life. You have a responsibility to me. It’s not just about you. You have a responsibility to me, right?” Cuomo continued.
“We started here saying, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about we’. Get your head about, around the ‘we concept.’ So it’s not all about you, it’s about me too. It’s about we,” he told the reporter.
The Democrat lawmaker has ordered that non-essential businesses are to stay closed through May 15. New York has been the hardest hit state in the nation, with over 19,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and the majority of those being centered in New York City.
— Lori Van Buren (@curleypic) April 22, 2020
Cuomo claimed that he understands the economic hardships people are going through, adding that his state is “moving heaven and earth” to get payments to New Yorkers who file for unemployment more quickly.
“So, we get the economic anxiety. The question is how do you respond to it? And do you respond to it in a way that jeopardizes public health and possibly causes more people to die?” he said.
“And think about it as if it was your family that might get infected, right? And that’s what we’re talking about. And when you think about it as your family, you have a different perspective, I’ll tell you the truth,” he added.
“It’s not an abstract argument,” Cuomo went on. “Okay, think about it as your family might be in the mix. Because when I see 484 New Yorkers die, I feel that it’s like people in my family. And nothing comes before the public health risk of somebody else’s life and that’s where we are.”
“But they’re also saying, if you can’t afford to pay me unemployment, or you, or your system is not set up…,” the reporter again tried to make the point that protesters have been arguing.
— Jesse McKinley (@jessemckinley) April 22, 2020
Cuomo insisted they would be paid unemployment and there was “a couple of days lag” even after McCloy said New Yorkers “cannot wait for the money. They are out of money.”
“I understand the economic hardship, we all feel it. The question is what do you do about it? And do you put public health at risk? And do you drive up the number of deaths, for it? Because you have no idea how to reopen now,” the governor pushed back.
“But they’re saying that, ‘is there a fundamental right to work if the government can’t get me the money when I need it?’ Is there a fundamental right…” the reporter said.
“By the way, you want to go to work? Go take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow,” Cuomo responded. “Right? You are working. You are an essential worker. So go take a job as an essential worker.”
When McCloy pointed out that “people aren’t hiring because of the pandemic,” Cuomo insisted they are hiring.
“No, there are people hiring. You can get a job as an essential worker,” the Democrat shot back. “So now you can go to work and be an essential worker and you won’t kill anyone.”
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