NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday launched a blistering attack on President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis, accusing him of “passing the buck” to the states and favoring big business over communities hardest hit.
Cuomo, who had previously kept his criticism of Trump in check, unleashed a flurry of broadsides following a reporter’s question about the president’s comments suggesting New York had asked for too much aid that was never fully used.
The governor said the president should “maybe get up and go to work” instead of watching TV and accused him of favoring the airline industry and other business cronies in a recent bailout package that Cuomo said left little for the states.
Cuomo said that he had been quick to praise the president when the state was in dire need of hospital beds and ventilators and that his requests for help with those were motivated by the White House’s own dire projections for the virus.
“We built more beds than we needed,” Cuomo, said pointing to initial federal projections on the impact of the virus which predicted that as many as 2.2 million people could die. “Our only mistake was believing your numbers and your projections.”
Cuomo, whose state is at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, accounting for nearly half of the country’s deaths, said the president had repeatedly refused to help states with ramping up testing because it was “too complicated.”
He said he needs federal funding to significantly ramp up testing capacity and to fill a $10-$15 billion budget shortfall that is hampering the state’s ability to fund such efforts on its own. He criticized the aid packages passed by Congress to date for a lack of funds to hard-hit states like New York.
“Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? ‘No,’” Cuomo told a daily briefing on the coronavirus. “That is passing the buck without passing the bucks.”
He spoke one day after the Trump administration outlined plans for a phased reopening, starting with the states least affected by the virus.
“The federal government has passed three bills to address this crisis. Of those three bills the state governments have gotten precisely zero, zilch, nada in unrestricted aid,” Cuomo said.
“Okay, it’s up to the states, but then don’t ask the states, don’t give them this massive undertaking that has never been done before and then not give them any resources to do it.”
In a separate briefing, Governor Phil Murphy of neighboring New Jersey said he had been in constant contact with the White House to get “the right testing infrastructure and regime in place,” a prerequisite for reopening the state.
Murphy avoided Cuomo’s combative rhetoric, calling his teleconference on Thursday with Trump and other White House officials “a good discussion.”
On Thursday, Cuomo extended the closure of businesses and schools in his state until at least May 15, but he has started to plan on a phased reopening that would hinge on keeping hospitalizations and other key metrics on a downward trend.
Cuomo said on Friday that a total of 17,316 people were hospitalized across New York because of COVID-19, down from 17,735 a day earlier and the lowest since April 5. Intubations and admissions to intensive care units also fell, he said.
Cuomo said that about 2,000 infected people were newly admitted to hospitals on Thursday, hovering at a high level, while the state recorded an additional 630 deaths, up from 606 deaths the previous day.
New Jersey, which is second after New York in coronavirus cases and fatalities, reported 323 new deaths on Friday for a total of 3,840, and 3,250 new confirmed cases for a total of 78,467.
But the rates of increase in the spread of the virus have “dropped dramatically” over the past several weeks, Murphy said. “This is what we’ve been working toward, and what we must keep doing,” he added.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul and Howard Goller