On Tuesday night, I called to check in on my friends in San Francisco. One is a lawyer; his grandfather died last week. His partner is a doctor on the front lines of COVID-19. In short, they’ve been through it.
I asked the doctor, “How is work?”
“Thank God we’re not New York City,” he said.
The words hit like a ton of bricks.
Though I moved to the suburbs a few years ago, New York City was my home for 14 years. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I am a Mets fan, a subway rider, a Fairway shopper, a Daily News reader. I lived through the 2000 Subway Series, the 2003 blackout, the 2007 bed bug outbreak, the 2008 recession and, of course, the attacks on the World Trade Center. On the morning of 9/11, I walked to my Times Square office to see the first plane hit the Twin Towers on the Jumbotron. I not only lost friends that day, I lost a piece of myself.
Through it all, I was a proud New Yorker, and still consider myself one. But now, the city is the subject of derision and pity as it struggles to manage and contain coronavirus cases — 142,432 as of this writing — and nearly 11,000 confirmed deaths. It’s the most anywhere in the country; New York City accounts for 17% of U.S. cases, and 30% of U.S. deaths. For a city used to superlatives, it is a grim one.
Cases and deaths have begun to drop in New York, a very good thing. But the dangers are far from over.
Yet for some reason, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, is daydreaming aloud about the next large gathering he can take credit for: a parade for health care workers.
On Tuesday, he tweeted, “I can’t tell you when we’ll be able to host cultural events and parades again. But I can tell you WHO our first parade will be for: When the time is right, New York City will honor our health care workers and first responders with a ticker tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes.”
It’s a nice thought. Health care workers deserve our adoration and thanks, something New Yorkers acknowledge en masse every night at 7 p.m. when they take to their windows, fire escapes and balconies to clap and cheer.
But more than thanks, they deserved to be better prepared than they were for this pandemic. And de Blasio shares responsibility for those failures.
Despite years of warnings that a pandemic could cripple the city, despite public campaigns for New Yorkers to be prepared for just such an emergency, despite participating in pandemic simulation exercises with FEMA, hospitals were short of basic medical supplies: respiratory ventilators, face masks, gowns.
For too long, de Blasio resisted the obvious, that this was going to be bad. He told New Yorkers to keep up their routines, and he did the same, going to his gym, going out of his way to take a walk in the park.
He went on television, telling people that coronavirus “dies in the open air” and can’t live on surfaces for more than minutes, when we know it can live up to several days. He said researchers had only discovered “in the last 48 hours” that asymptomatic people could spread COVID-19, weeks if not months after experts had announced that fact.
He waited too long to close restaurants, schools and playgrounds. Top health officials threatened to resign. Teachers threatened to stay home. One former adviser called de Blasio’s obvious lack of awareness “pathetic, self-involved, inexcusable.”
Even as we rightly hold President Trump accountable for his many failures, we must not let local officials and Democrats off the hook. You’ll forgive me if de Blasio’s latest overture to salute our heroic health care workers and first responders, many of whom have been asked to work in horrid conditions without the protection they need and deserve, feels more than a little hollow.
Considering de Blasio’s glaring lack of leadership through this crisis, it actually feels like a sick joke.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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