Andrew Cuomo, the ambassador

Governor Cuomo in Georgia on July 20 announces that  New York State will establish two church testing sites in Savannah.
Governor Cuomo in Georgia on July 20 announces that  New York State will establish two church testing sites in Savannah.
Stephen B. Morton/ Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Cuomo in Georgia on July 20 announces that New York State will establish two church testing sites in Savannah.

Andrew Cuomo, the ambassador

A trip to Georgia reveals a more contemplative governor on New York’s coronavirus response.
July 21, 2020

Governors typically stay close to home, but as coronavirus cases surge in many states, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is keeping up appearances with a Monday trip to Georgia, helping him maintain his position as the unofficial Democratic leader against the pandemic policies of President Donald Trump.

“When you want to win, follow winners,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, a Brooklyn native, said at a Monday afternoon roundtable discussion with Cuomo. “New York state literally went from worst to first, and they have shown the entire country, the entire world, the way to do this right.”

The ostensible purpose of the trip was to deliver personal protective equipment and some disaster management expertise, but it also allowed Cuomo to insert himself into the ongoing controversy over government face mask orders, which also happens to keep the governor in the political limelight as cases continue to decline in the Empire State. “I am still repulsed by the federal government’s failure to implement a mask order,” Cuomo told reporters during a Tuesday conference call.

Some experts say such an order could save tens of thousands of lives in the coming months. While Trump has softened his stance on masks – after taking a hostile attitude toward them earlier in the pandemic – he has yet to get behind a national order, nor put political pressure on fellow Republicans like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who has blocked local governments from instituting mask orders.

The Georgia trip was not the first time that Cuomo has left the state to express solidarity with communities that he has said are harmed by Trump’s brand of politics. This includes a 2019 trip to Puerto Rico over the Thanksgiving holiday to boost the island’s tourism prospects after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017. In June 2019, the governor went to Israel to express solidarity in fighting anti-Semitism and to boost trade.

Cuomo has blamed Trump and other Republicans for making the pandemic worse in other ways, from holding up new federal aid for states to downplaying the severity of the crisis. That, however, did not stop Cuomo from saying something that he has avoided saying to the media in his home state. “It was hard,” he told Georgians of his own state’s handling of the pandemic. “We made a lot of mistakes.”

While Cuomo has faced some criticism from local leaders for the attention he is giving to other states, the governor doesn’t often admit when he’s made a mistake. He has repeatedly asserted that he had no regrets about how the state handled nursing home deaths and other aspects of responding to the pandemic. So if an out-of-state trip is what it takes for an extra level of gubernatorial transparency, Cuomo’s critics might want to hope that he plays diplomat a little more often.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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