Worrying that new cases of COVID-19 will sprout up and overrun local health care facilities, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is rattling his saber south toward the Big Apple, promising to force the city to get back to social distancing and following orders. The threats come after thousands of people flooded the streets in New York City to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, seeming to forget that invisible bug that closed America for three months.
“We are not going back to that dark place,” Cuomo insisted, vowing to do his governor thing and override the thorn in his side, Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio sniffed indifference and retorted, “We don’t believe imprisoning people or taking away their livelihood is the answer.”
According to Cuomo, snitches have been reporting on folks eating dinner together, losing their face coverings, and enjoying their lives. Heck, thousands banded together in one another’s personal space to loot, riot, and protest. It’s America. Americans are unruly — and have been cooped up far too long.
But it doesn’t excuse allowing others to violate Cuomo’s state guidelines in the name of the First Amendment. Getting off scot-free, some might say, as it appears de Blasio has no desire to keep the mayhem at bay in Manhattan.
Dangerous Curve Ahead
Cuomo and de Blasio do not see eye-to-eye on most matters — likely it’s a media-coverage competition or popularity problem and not so much an issues’ disparity. But they spar and snark with a certain predictability. As the state they share has been hardest hit with COVID-19 cases and deaths — 383,000 cases and 30,825 deaths at this writing — the pandemonium of protesters taking over the city and streets has both on edge.
De Blasio’s Big Apple has contributed 210,000 to the state’s afflicted population and more than half of the total deaths. Why are folks out in the streets damaging property and peacefully protesting on the heels of the pandemic?
And this is where contact tracing was introduced — and used as ineffectively as asking people to turn in illegal firearms for a toaster. De Blasio hired hundreds of people to get into other folks’ business. According to a health care official, “We ask them questions about where they’ve been so that we can gauge who may be at risk.”
What they can’t ask is something akin to “Hey, were you looting the local pawn shop the other day with other rioters? Did anyone have a fever?” Contact tracing works only if there is full and accurate information from the entire population questioned. And both de Blasio and Cuomo feel that is a step too far. Instead, contact-tracing ambassadors ask COVID-19-positive people if they “recall” where they were and who they were with and lob softballs such as, “Do you live with anyone in your home?”
But that will change drastically if the bug seeps back into mainstream New York lives and the fearsome spike materializes: a new wave of sick, dying, contagious people in a city of 8 million stacked on top of one another like chips in a can of Pringles.
The Sticky, Somewhat Terrifying Wicket
The problem is simply this: protests violating personal space and stripping off face masks to lay on the ground for eight minutes and 46 seconds get a pass. But lunch with mom, followed by that all-important mom hug, at the neighborhood café is going to come with a hefty fine. As numbers roll in on new cases in light of protests dominating city streets, will the governor make good on his promise to curb the social-distancing guidelines that the mayor deems necessary for exercising First Amendment rights. Or will Cuomo quietly sit back and wait for Patient Ground Zero Phase 2 before making the tough call?
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.