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Cuomo earns high marks during COVID-19 crisis

Even as roughly 1.3 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been doing an incredible job keeping New Yorkers informed about the pandemic, which has hit the Empire State especially hard. He reports regularly on the facts, the science and the dire needs of the people. Even his critics are praising his decisiveness and transparency.

The governor has been holding daily press conferences that are informative and direct, infused, at times, with humor and humanity — both much needed during these difficult times.

On Friday, March 27, Cuomo held a press conference from the Javits Center in New York City, which was converted into a temporary 1,000-bed hospital with help from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and the staff at Javits.

He told those helping to battle the epidemic — today including an estimated 85,000 health care volunteers — about 22,000 from out of state and many of whom are retired — that they will be proud of what they did, proud that they “showed up” and had the “skill and the professionalism to make a difference and save lives.”

Those who are working on the front lines and volunteering behind the scenes to save the sick during this health crisis are doing incredible work. For that, we sincerely thank them.

As we do Cuomo, who has taken a proactive stance from the get-go and leaned on his steadfast leadership skills to protect everyone living in New York — the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. All the while the governor has continued to run the state effectively and efficiently.

And he’s had to make some tough calls. Monday, April 6, he extended the closure of state schools and essential businesses until the 29th, when he’ll reassess the situation. Cuomo promised to waive the requirement that schools must teach for 180 days.

“I’m not going to choose between public health and economic activity,” he said at his Monday briefing. “In either event, public health still demands that we stay on pause with businesses closed and schools closed, whether we hit the apex or whether we haven’t hit the apex, we have to do same thing.”

And then there was the New York budget; its passage was due April 1, at the start of the state’s new fiscal year. Though not quite making that deadline, the governor and the Legislature did accomplish the monumental task of passing the budget in the midst of the pandemic by Friday, April 3. (For more, read this week’s front page.)

He’s also had to deal with the health crisis on the home front, as his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, tested positive for the disease last week. Sharing the diagnoses during a press conference, the governor spoke candidly of his sibling relationship with the humor we mentioned earlier. It’s been good for all of us to see that rarer side of New York’s top lawmaker. It’s reminded us that everyone — even the governor — is human, doing his best to deal with a very difficult situation.

Yet Cuomo continues to maintain his composure, even when dealing with our tempestuous president. The governor has been able to straddle that oh-so-fine line between fiercely fighting for his state while not pushing Trump into a corner, where he would likely lash out and deny New Yorkers the support they so desperately need.

It’s vital that everyone — and we mean everyone — continue to abide social distancing rules and proper hygiene protocols, including wearing masks in public. The governor chastised New Yorkers this week for showing a “laxness on social distancing” that he called “wholly unacceptable.

“If I can’t convince you to show discipline for yourself, then show discipline for other people you could get infected,” he said Monday. “People are dying.”

We get it — society must continue to operate: people need to shop, to eat, to see their doctors (for emergencies only, of course), to take care of their children, their pets, their homes, their businesses. But, as Cuomo said, “now is not the time to be lax.” That’s why he increased the penalty for violating social distancing rules, upping the fine from $500 to $1,000 and asking local governments for more “aggressive enforcement.”

Locally, supermarkets and pharmacies have been busy trying to keep up with demand while keeping customers and workers safe (read reporter Kaitlin Lyle’s front page story this week). Their services are essential, and on Sunday, March 29, Cuomo announced all New York pharmacies will now offer free home delivery.

Functioning during a pandemic is difficult. It’s extremely stressful. The world is changing. But it’s comforting to know we’ve got a strong leader at the helm willing to take charge and deal with reality — no matter how grim.

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