Cuomo’s coronavirus poster, annotated

Governor Cuomo's COVID poster as annotated by City & State.
Governor Cuomo's COVID poster as annotated by City & State.
Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Cuomo's COVID poster as annotated by City & State.

Cuomo’s coronavirus poster, annotated

We unpack the meaning behind the symbolic poster, from the “Boyfriend Cliff” to “Economy Falls.”
July 14, 2020

Just a few weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his giant Styrofoam coronavirus mountain, the governor revealed his latest creative endeavor on Monday, a poster celebrating New York’s triumphs in the battle against COVID-19.

“I love history,” Cuomo said during the press briefing. “I love poster art.”

This is the third poster commissioned by the governor that has been inspired by poster art from the late 1800s and early 1900s. In January, Cuomo unveiled his poster called “A Visual Representation of New York in 2020” to commemorate his State of the State speech. And in 2012, he revealed a similarly stylized poster to celebrate his accomplishments.

The coronavirus-related poster received mixed reviews, while some were tickled by the unusual work of art, others found it failed to capture the severity of the crisis and made light of the tragedies endured by many New Yorkers. Some also pointed out that the poster failed to capture the governor’s failures during the height of the crisis, such as the extremely high number of coronavirus deaths at nursing homes.

All of the governor’s posters are known for being extremely symbolic and this poster is no different. We’ve pulled out some of the key details in Cuomo’s latest poster to help you better understand the governor’s artistic and political vision of the state.

The man on the moon

President Donald Trump is depicted as “the man on the moon,” a phrase that typically insinuates that someone is out of touch with reality. “It’s just the flu” is written below the president. Trump has frequently said that in reference to COVID-19, which many public health experts – and Cuomo – have pointed out is an inaccurate comparison.

“The sun is on the other side of the mountain,” Cuomo said. “We just have to make it to the other side of the mountain.”

The mountain

The governor has continuously used “the mountain” to symbolize the hurdles that the state has overcome during the pandemic. The center of the poster depicts a mountain that looks nearly identical to the forest green foam prop Cuomo unveiled a couple weeks ago.

“Over the past few years, I’ve done my own posters that capture that feeling,” Cuomo said. “I did a new one for what we went through with COVID, and I think the general shape is familiar to you. We went up the mountain. We curved the mountain. We came down the other side, and these are little telltale signs that, to me, represent what was going on.”

Economy Falls

Running diagonally over the mountain is “Economy Falls,” a reference to the crushing impact that the state’s coronavirus crisis has had on the economy. “We almost get to the top of the mountain – ‘Economy Falls.’ Get it? Economy Falls like Niagara Falls but then the economy drops, the economy falls,” Cuomo said.

111 Days of Hell

Located in the middle of the mountain is “111 Days of Hell,” a reference to the most horrific and virus-plagued days that the state experienced during the COVID-19 outbreak. The governor held press conferences for 111 consecutive days during the pandemic.

Hand sanitizer

On the bottom-left side of the mountain is a bottle of New York state hand sanitizer, which was produced by the state at the onset of the outbreak, after hand sanitizer became scarce.However, the hand sanitizer became controversial when it was discovered that the state’s prisoners were just bottling sanitizer that was produced elsewhere.

Press briefing table

At the bottom of the mountain is a press briefing table, which has “Dr. Knows Best,”
“Smiling Rob,” “56” and “Magnificent Melissa” seated at it. Those nicknames refer to state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, state Budget Director Robert Mujica, Cuomo and Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, respectively.

A.J. Parkinson quote

The saying, “Tell the people the truth and they will do the right thing,” by A.J. Parkinson is written on the right side of the mountain. Parkinson is a fake philosopher and poet who was often citedby Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and has become something of an inside joke. Cuomo has also quoted Parkinson at coronavirus press briefingsas a nod to his father.

The rope

A long, golden rope hovers above the mountain and is being pulled down the right side by New Yorkers, health care workers, essential workers, out of state volunteers, Cuomo’s three daughters and his dog, Captain. Above the rope on the left side of the mountain, “Pulling down the curve together” is written and the right side says, “The power of ‘We.’”

This appears to depict the hard work that was done by various individuals within the state who helped contain the virus. However, it does seem unfair for Cuomo’s daughters and his dog to be given the same amount of credit as health care and essential workers in flattening the COVID-19 curve.

Boyfriend Cliff

On the right side of the mountain is the “Boyfriend Cliff,” which is presumably a nod to the boyfriend of Cuomo’s daughter Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo, who sheltered with the governor and his family during the public health crisis.

Some pointed out that Cuomo took poking fun at Kennedy-Cuomo’s boyfriend to the extreme.

Rainbow

The rainbow above the mountain appears to be a nod to the state legalizing same-sex marriage in 2011, another symbol that was previously seen on Cuomo’s State of the State poster.

Sea of Division

Cuomo’s State of the State poster depicted a ship sailing through the “Sea of Division” to symbolize the accomplishments that New York had made during his three terms in office. The sea can also be spotted in the bottom-right corner of the governor’s new poster, presumably meant as a criticism of how divided the country has become when it comes to tackling the current public health crisis.

Octopus

The octopus in the lower-left corner of the poster is a symbol that previously appeared in Cuomo’s State of the State poster as an homage to William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate whose posters inspired Cuomo’s. Above the octopus is a cruise ship, which is most likely a reference to the notable COVID-19 outbreaks that occurred on cruise ships.

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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