FILE – In this May 1, 2018, file photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference in Newark, N.J. Asian-Americans have been divided over affirmative action for decades, long before New York City’s mayor proposed an admissions overhaul to admit more blacks and Latinos into elite city schools currently dominated by Asians. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
The Boston Globe released an editorial three days ago titled “A President Unfit For A Pandemic,” claiming that Donald Trump had “blood on his hands” for the way he handled the novel coronavirus outbreak from the beginning. While we can certainly argue Trump’s handling of the matter, based on the little information the American government had at the time (thanks, China!), what is inarguable is that there were people in power elsewhere who had access to better information and were still telling citizens to go out and have a good time with their fellow citizens.
Among the most guilty, and the one with the most blood on his hands through all this, is New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio.
It is an objective fact that, despite the growing threat to American citizens, de Blasio was urging New York residents to go about their lives as if nothing was wrong. Jim Geraghty at National Review has a great timeline of statements and events in New York leading to de Blasio’s eventual cave to health officials’ pressure to shut the city down.
On January 24, when the Trump Administration and the de Blasio Administration both had access to limited information, de Blasio told his citizens “What we do know, to date, is that only through prolonged exposure can someone contract this virus. It is not a situation as with some other diseases where a single contact would be enough.”
His Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services declared: “We urge all New Yorkers to continue to pursue their everyday activities and routines, but to remain aware of the facts about coronavirus. Those with a travel history should see a doctor at the first sign of any flu-like symptoms.”
On January 26, the city’s Health Commissioner stated that “We are encouraging New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives and suggest practicing everyday precautions that we do through the flu season.”
If Donald Trump has “blood on his hands,” as the Boston Globe claims, due to incorrect information being given out, then so, too, does de Blasio. But, where the Trump Administration took experts’ advice and made adjustments to their plan along the way, de Blasio was still giving out that same, incredibly inaccurate information weeks after the truth became more widely known.
By February 2, a handful of suspected cases were discovered in New York. Despite that, the city’s Health Commissioner tweeted this:
As we gear up to celebrate the #LunarNewYear in NYC, I want to assure New Yorkers that there is no reason for anyone to change their holiday plans, avoid the subway, or certain parts of the city because of #coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/r4gNWklGPX
— Commissioner Oxiris Barbot (@NYCHealthCommr) February 2, 2020
The Mayor himself told the press that “New Yorkers, I always say, are not intimidated easily. New Yorkers should go about our lives, continue doing what we do,” and reiterated that the public should go about its business. By this point, Trump had restricted travel to and from China – a move which members of the press and the Democratic Party decried as too extreme and for which they accused the President of enacting more of his “xenophobic” policies.
Over the next two weeks, the government of New York City, came together as one to promote New York’s, and the country’s, Chinese-American community in order to show their solidarity with the new population Trump was apparently oppressing. By February 26, the Mayor was outright stating that the city could handle an influx of COVID-19 cases.
Even at the beginning of March, de Blasio was reassuring his city that they should continue to go about their lives, even after the city got its first official case – previously believed cases were deemed to be negative long before – and actually told people to go see a movie.
Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see “The Traitor” @FilmLinc. If “The Wire” was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) March 3, 2020
It wasn’t until March 5 that he declared a possible community-spread event, telling the public “What we do know is when you have a community-spread dynamic, you have to assume it could be anywhere in the city. So, we are going to work on an assumption of the intense vigilance.”
Still, de Blasio did not want to close schools or put the city on lockdown. He was also telling people to continue going to restaurants and to do what they had been doing.
In response to a question about how the city would help curb the economic impact, the mayor mentioned new no-interest loans for small businesses that experience a 25 percent decline or more due to new coronavirus. He also said that they’re “telling people to not avoid restaurants, not avoid normal things that people do.”
“If you’re not sick, you should be going about your life,” the mayor said.
While I realize it is the Boston Globe and not the New York Times, if you are going to say that Trump is the one with blood on his hands, then you must be intellectually honest enough to admit that de Blasio, at this point, is gearing up to go on a murdering spree.
According to the New York Times, de Blasio was far too resistant to taking proactive measures in the city. So resistant, in fact, that city health officials threatened to quit if he didn’t begin taking those measures.
There had been arguments and shouting matches between the mayor and some of his advisers; some top health officials had even threatened to resign if he refused to accept the need to close schools and businesses, according to several people familiar with the internal discussions.
Teachers were threatening not to show up to school on Monday. A growing number of public health experts and politicians were calling for much of the city to be shut down to curb the spread of the virus.
On Sunday, the mayor was shown a graph depicting the sharp upward trajectory of the coronavirus epidemic curve, and another showing the capacity of the city’s health systems to handle the influx.
The information painted a disastrous picture of the days and weeks to come unless the mayor took immediate action.
“We all realized from the public health outcomes and political reality this needed to happen,” said a person familiar with the mayor’s deliberations who spoke under the condition of anonymity. “He just had to process it himself.”
The situation, New York City health officials say, is worse than 9/11, and it continues to deteriorate. While all the focus is on Trump and his performance as President during this crisis, there is virtually nothing being said about de Blasio’s performance. One can only assume that this has everything to do with party and nothing to do with being intellectually honest about how badly things were bungled here.
Experts like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx have been routinely trashed by reporters for daring to say that Trump was listening to the experts. Meanwhile, aside from the New York Times story linked above, there is a lot of silence where de Blasio’s straight-up refusal to listen to experts is concerned.
Could the Trump Administration have handled the crisis differently? I think so, though I also think they have since made up for a lot of it, and have taken the best actions available to them since the world realized how much China was lying about its numbers. Trump’s team corrected course, and they have made good decisions. De Blasio, however, was forced to admit there was a problem and even then made the proactive moves (ones he should have made much earlier, given the information that was public by this time) only when pressured to do so by his staff.
Given that New York is the epicenter of this pandemic on American soil, it is undoubtedly true that the blood, if it’s on anyone’s hands, is on Bill de Blasio’s.