ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrapped up a string of more than 100 daily briefings that became appointment viewing around the nation, alternatively informative, grave, jocular and combative, by declaring Friday that New York has “done the impossible” in taming the coronavirus.
Cuomo appeared alone behind his desk during a brief address, a departure from his routine of presenting slides with bar graphs of COVID-19 hospitalizations and then taking questions from reporters. But his message was the same as in recent days: New Yorkers at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak worked together to fight the virus and now must be on guard for a second wave.
“If we could accomplish together what we did here, this impossible task of beating back this deadly virus, then there is nothing we can’t do,” Cuomo said. “And we will be better. And we will be stronger for what we have gone through.”
As case numbers climbed, the briefings, usually from the state Capitol, were covered live daily by networks, notably CNN, the employer of the governor’s younger brother and on-air sparring partner, Chris Cuomo. The elder brother promised “just the facts” and shared the screen daily with slides loaded with statistics. But a politician famous for being calculating and controlling frequently provided glimpses of his humanity though 110 briefings with reporters.
On any given day, he would fret over the safety of his 88-year-old mother, expound on the grittiness of New Yorkers, get misty-eyed over the gift of a single mask, defend charges he locked down the state too late, chide young people for not wearing masks, or grieve over daily death tolls that climbed as high as 800.
On Friday, Cuomo said an average of 25 people per day were dying this week. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 1,284, compared with more than 18,000 at the peak of the outbreak.
The governor has repeatedly said there was not time for politics during the crisis, though the briefings highlighted his sometimes contentious relationships with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, and President Donald Trump.
Cuomo announced a statewide lockdown in March, days after knocking down de Blasio’s statement that city residents should be prepared for the possibility of a “shelter-in-place” order. In April, he dismissed the mayor’s announcement of continued city school closings this spring as an “opinion,” confusing parents and teachers.
Cuomo had made a point of thanking Trump for help acquiring more hospital beds and equipment, but the pair clashed intermittently over the federal response to the outbreak. In April, they traded barbs during a briefing, with Cuomo responding to a real-time Trump tweet read to him by a reporter.
Cuomo struck a more reflective tone Friday, thanking residents, viewers, first responders, staff and supporters who helped him through the trying time.
“After 62 years when I thought I had seen it all,” he said, “I got an education too.”