Strongman Gov. Andrew Cuomo Gives Up and Whines Again About Trump and the Feds
Jeenah Moon / Getty
For those who have been watching him closely, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo comes in two modes for the most part. There is the dominant governor who recognizes everything, declares “I am the government” and has full control over his transit network, public schools, housing laws and the flawed response to the pandemic.
But there is another Cuomo - the insincere viewer. That same governor may announce on another day that he does not really control the city's subways and cannot do anything about whoever comes to New York from overseas. When news broke over the weekend that a new strain of coronavirus was floating around in England, Cuomo took on the side-effect role, railing against the outgoing federal administration of President Donald Trump for failing to protect New York while insisting that there was nothing he could do about it. This is arguably the most powerful governor in the nation.
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Don't believe him.
Andrew Cuomo, who attacks the press and whips parents, looks a lot like Donald Trump
"We have about six flights a day from the UK. And we did absolutely nothing" to stop them, Cuomo said on Sunday. "This is reprehensible to me," he said, "because it happens in the spring" when he blamed travelers from Europe for New York's uncontrolled early coronavirus and not directly from the original epicenter in Wuhan, China. “120 countries have to be tested. We don’t. Other European countries have issued a ban. We do not have that. And today this variant gets on a plane and lands at JFK. “On Monday, Cuomo asked British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Delta to add New York to a list of places where passengers should take a negative coronavirus test before flight. Again he attacked the federal “incompetence” and assumed that the variant of the virus was already in New York.
What can Cuomo do to stop this? Basically nothing, he said. “The port authority is not authorized to ban passengers and passengers with health surveillance. It's federal, ”he said. “To do nothing is negligent. It's grossly negligent. "
But Cuomo is not a desperate activist who railed against Trump from beyond the barricades. Together with the governor of New Jersey, he controls the port authority that oversees all major airports in the region. New York City's two airports, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy, are under his direct supervision. The airlines are privately owned, but land on New York soil. Once these passengers disembark, Cuomo will not need federal government support to keep the virus in check.
Cuomo claimed there were at least six flights a day from the UK. While he shared this information to back up his thesis that far too many people flock to New York from Europe, the influx is actually very manageable. If passengers are not tested for the coronavirus before boarding a flight, they can be tested quickly when they arrive in New York.
New York officials do not have the power to refuse European passengers, but they can easily direct anyone to a vacant hotel room near the airports. With tourism declining so sharply in 2020, hotels in New York's major transportation hubs offer plenty of space. Hotel occupancy in the city was estimated to be less than 10 percent.
Instead of trembling, Cuomo can act - and probably should have acted already. The state can buy up hotel rooms near the airports, reserve them especially for international travelers and quarantine them there. If there are concerns about airport testing, swab or saliva testing can be done in the hotels themselves. Private transport can be secured so that these travelers do not crowd on buses and trains.
If Cuomo really thinks the threat is dire, he can shut down the airports completely. The variant of the coronavirus occurring in England probably does not justify such a drastic measure. However, it is worth noting that Cuomo never wielded such power during the key days of the pandemic in early March. At the time, Cuomo downplayed the coronavirus threat and dismissed the need for a protection order for New York City. As PBS's Alexander Heffner pointed out - one of the few observers to have done so - shutting down the port authority could have triggered a disaster and curtailed travel to New York.
Currently, passengers from the United Kingdom are submitting a travel history form to the National Guard. Passengers provide their phone number and whereabouts, as well as evidence of a coronavirus test carried out elsewhere. In the following days they will be notified by SMS and asked if they are showing symptoms. Three days of quarantine are now required before a coronavirus test is carried out in New York, but it is not facilitated or enforced in any meaningful way.
In November, Cuomo put on a show of National Guard forces deployed at airports to ensure travelers were showing evidence of negative coronavirus tests. A traveler who arrives without evidence of a negative test will not be prevented from entering the state, but will be required to be quarantined for 14 days.
In addition, Cuomo waives any authority. The quarantine is based on an honor system. The test will not be conducted, but not in New York. It cannot be ruled out that a passenger with an airline could be infected.
Trump is not a governor of New York State, although sometimes it looks like Cuomo is pretending to be. If Cuomo likes the new coronavirus variant so much, he should now be using the power of the state to stamp it out. New York has the tests, hotels, and legal authority to stop the spread. Cuomo can either be the governor he claimed or another judicial disaster.
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