Next step in Cuomo’s COVID-19 response? ‘Un-Pausing’

Governor Cuomo on April 12th.
Governor Cuomo on April 12th.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Cuomo on April 12th.

Next step in Cuomo’s COVID-19 response? ‘Un-Pausing’

The latest buzzword from the governor as he plans New York's reopening.
April 17, 2020

Considering his love of PowerPoint presentations, it is no surprise that Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in buzzwords as he redefines public health actions in Cuomoesque terms. 

The statewide stay-at-home order translates as “The Pause.” The governor sought to temporarily shift medical resources from upstate to downstate through what he calls a “surge and flex” approach – and an upcoming gubernatorial executive order will build on this by allowing the state to direct how 300 private labs and hospitals use the resources the state has to expand testing, Cuomo announced at a Friday press conference. If the state can deploy millions of tests for the coronavirus through Cuomo’s so-called “Ramp Up,” then it will be able to move forward with lifting social distancing restrictions in the months ahead.

“Our whole response thus far has basically been a response to a crisis,” Cuomo said on Friday. “We’re starting to transition to another place (and) it’s going to be the second half of this situation, which is ‘Un-Pausing.’”

Cuomo has sought throughout the crisis to define the political narrative. In the first six weeks, he described the struggle against the virus in terms of war. Now he is deploying a mix of neologisms aimed at defining how the state will win the peace, so to speak, through a step-by-step regional approach that will link any lessening of social distancing with a massive increase of state testing capacity.

The state now has to figure out how to implement – and pay for – the testing at scale in order to allow economic activity to resume. Making this “Ramp Up” happen will require federal assistance, said Cuomo, who will likely have to make additional budget cuts in the upcoming months assuming revenues fall below projections.

A fourth federal coronavirus stimulus bill ought to include billions in unrestricted aid for New York state, according to Cuomo, who has been pressuring the state’s congressional delegation on this point for weeks. The federal government also must bolster state efforts to acquire testing materials, Cuomo said, which has been a concern for the administration since the first day of its pandemic response. 

The state is simply not able to manage the international supply chain that provides the chemicals to conduct tests. Key to unlocking Cuomo’s messaging is recognizing just how much the cooperation of President Donald Trump is needed for the governor’s “Ramp Up” to succeed. While New York has some international sway, it is not enough to get things done, according to Cuomo. “I’m telling you, I don’t do China relations,” Cuomo said. “In this new phase, we need testing materials, they’re made in China. It’s just like, how?”

But no one can predict just how much the president will help or hinder the governor’s efforts. A single tweet can alter the political dynamic between the two leaders at any moment – including on Friday while Cuomo spoke during his press conference. 

“Governor Cuomo should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining,’” Trump tweeted during multiple posts on Friday. “We have given New York far more money, help and equipment than any other state, by far.” 

The back and forth continued during the press conference, with the president continuing to comment via Twitter. “Yes, thank you for the Javits. Thanks for the USNS Comfort, but it’s not over. We have a lot more to do,” Cuomo said while responding to the Trump’s tweets. “We need help on testing and we need funding.” 

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.