New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, gave his last daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, wrapping up a series of more than 100 appearances which for a time became required viewing across the US.
New Yorkers, he said, had “done the impossible” and tamed Covid-19. But as staged reopening continues, they should remain vigilant against a possible second wave.
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, New York has recorded nearly 386,000 cases and approaching 25,000 deaths. It is by far the US state worst hit.
On Friday, Cuomo said an average of 25 people a day were dying. At the peak of the outbreak, daily death tolls climbed as high as 800. The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 was 1,284, compared with more than 18,000 at the high point.
Nearly 2.2m cases have been recorded in the US, with more than 118,000 deaths.
On Friday, Cuomo appeared alone behind his desk in Albany for a brief address, a departure from his routine of presenting slides with graphs and taking questions from reporters.
But his message was the same as in recent days: New Yorkers at the center of the US outbreak worked together to fight the virus and now must remain on guard.
“If we could accomplish together what we did here, this impossible task of beating back this deadly virus, then there is nothing we can’t do,” Cuomo said. “And we will be better. And we will be stronger for what we have gone through.”
In March and April, as case numbers climbed, Cuomo’s briefings, usually from the state capitol in Albany, were covered live daily by networks – notably CNN, the employer of the governor’s younger brother and on-air sparring partner, Chris Cuomo.
The elder brother promised “just the facts”. But a politician famous for being calculating and controlling also provided glimpses of humanity though 110 briefings.
On any given day, he would fret over the safety of his 88-year-old mother, expound on the grittiness of New Yorkers, get misty-eyed over the gift of a single mask, defend charges he locked down the state too late, chide young people for not wearing masks, or grieve over those who died.
The governor has repeatedly said there was not time for politics during the crisis, though the briefings highlighted contentious relationships with New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, and Donald Trump.
Cuomo announced a statewide lockdown in March, days after knocking down De Blasio’s statement that city residents should be prepared for a “shelter-in-place” order. In April, he dismissed the mayor’s announcement of city school closings as an “opinion”, confusing parents and teachers.
Cuomo made a point of thanking Trump for help acquiring more hospital beds and equipment, but the pair clashed too. In April, they traded barbs during a briefing, Cuomo responding to a Trump tweet read by a reporter.
On Friday, Cuomo thanked residents, viewers, first responders, staff and supporters.
“After 62 years when I thought I had seen it all,” he said, “I got an education too.”