Taking Shots — At Each Other

Social distancing can’t keep Cuomo and de Blasio from squabbling

| 20 Mar 2021 | 02:24

The Centers for Disease Control said Friday that grade schoolers can safely sit closer together in class than previously thought. The agency offered no view, however, on whether it was causation or merely correlation that this finding emerged just as our two best known grade schoolers, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, reached new levels in their endless squabbling.

No amount of social distancing seems to keep them from each others’ throats. It is sometimes hard to imagine each without the other. Cuomo had been putting off getting vaccinated to send a message that everyone should go in their turn. Which presumably is why de Blasio also delayed.

Then Cuomo got his jab at a church in Harlem Wednesday. The next morning, de Blasio took the shot live during his press briefing. Cuomo took the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. So did the mayor.

De Blasio seemed caught by surprise on Friday by the CDC’s announcement, which bears directly on how many kids can be brought back to in-class learning and, therefore, how many parents can go back to working, whether from home or at worksites they haven’t seen in a long time. In other words, the pace of the city’s recovery runs through the classroom.

Which is no doubt why de Blasio quickly regrouped to welcome the CDC’s new advice. “A recovery for all of us hinges on bringing back our schools,” the mayor said. “There’s nothing more important than bringing back the schools in New York City as fully as possible, getting as many kids in education now, and of course, looking ahead to September.”

He promised more details shortly.

But in the family dysfunction that is New York politics, the teachers union quickly sought out its favored parent. “As usual, this mayor has come out with another proclamation without a plan or authority to proceed,” said the union president, Michael Mulgrew. “we will wait for New York State to weigh in.”

“Political Reasons”

Cuomo and de Blasio did not invent contentions between City Hall and Albany. But they have made them omnipresent for New Yorkers in this plague year, when a spirit of unity, or even just a sense of cooperativeness, might have done more to curb the virus.

Even as de Blasio was rushing to embrace a faster reopening of schools Friday, he was denouncing Cuomo for enabling a faster reopening of fitness classes and other businesses.

“Do I think he makes these decisions for political reasons constantly? Yes,” the mayor asked and answered himself about the governor on Brian Lehrer’s radio show Friday.

“Our health care leadership said, ‘do not open up these fitness classes’,” the mayor continued. “These are doctors who have spent their whole life in public health, trying to save people’s lives. They said, ‘this is small spaces, indoors, people either with no mask or masks on that had gotten wet from perspiration, a heavy – you know, heavy breath.’ This exactly what you don’t want, If you want to stop COVID, especially with the variants around. Our health care leadership is abundantly clear, don’t do that.”

But de Blasio, whose own health commissioner quit last year saying she wasn’t being listened to, attacked the governor for not listening before allowing fitness classes to restart.

“The Governor took back the power for us to decide and did it. And I think for very political reasons, just to – anything he could do to get anyone to like him. And I think it’s dangerous and this is why we need local control because I’m listening to health care leaders. We all know he doesn’t listen to his health care leaders. I’m listening to the health care leaders and they say that was a real dangerous decision.”

Interpreting CDC Studies

The squabbling continued into the pages of the New York Times where staff to the Mayor and the governor debated the proper interpretation of CDC studies last month that linked COVID-19 outbreaks to high-intensity workouts in Chicago and Honolulu.

Dr. Jay Varma, the mayor’s medical adviser, said the studies and other international data made it clear that “this is an area where people need to be extremely careful.” But Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Cuomo, said the CDC studies focused on situations where instructors and their classes failed to wear masks and follow other safety protocols.

These can both be true, of course. But it is entirely unclear how Varma and Sterne improved public health and safety by arguing this in public.

The mayor accused the governor of rushing to reopen the economy to curry favor to distract from his sexual harassment and nursing home scandals. The intersection between Cuomo, de Blasio and the scandals came up in another way last week.

The first woman to accuse Cuomo of harassment, Lindsey Boylan, told the New Yorker that during a party at the Executive Mansion in Albany she came across a dart board in the pool house with a picture of de Blasio on it. “I couldn’t believe how brazen that was,” she said.

Cuomo and de Blasio did not invent contentions between City Hall and Albany. But they have made them omnipresent for New Yorkers in this plague year, when a spirit of unity, or even just a sense of cooperativeness, might have done more to curb the virus.