New York Governor Cuomo calls coronavirus the ‘European virus’
- Governor’s remark appeared to be a dig at Donald Trump who has insisted on calling the pandemic the ‘China virus’
- Studies have said that New York’s outbreak may have come from European travellers
“Our current federal government is dysfunctional and incompetent. It couldn't fight off the virus, in fact it didn't even see it coming. The European virus infected the north-east while the White House was still fixated on China,” Cuomo said on Monday.
Cuomo was one of the first Democratic luminaries to speak at a convention that the pandemic has effectively forced online to keep thousands of party faithful from gathering and spreading the virus.
His remark appeared to be a dig at President Donald Trump who had repeatedly insisted on calling the pandemic the “China virus”, though his opponents often accuse the president of verbalising racist overtones by insisting on the term.
The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, though some studies have said the New York outbreak may have come from European travellers who did not know they were infected.
Trump last week again referred to the “China virus” in an interview with the New York Post, where he discussed plans for his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination.
“I’ll probably be giving my speech at the White House because it is a great place. It’s a place that makes me feel good, it makes the country feel good,” the Post quoted Trump as saying in an interview.
“We’d do it possibly outside on one of the lawns, we have various lawns, so we could have it outside in terms of the China virus,” Trump said.
Cuomo, 62, a potential presidential contender in 2024 or 2028, said the Trump administration remained unprepared to overcome a pandemic that slammed into New York City five months ago.
“This is a man-made threat by our own negligence,” he said. “We now see the virus ricocheting across the country from one state to another. Today we trail the world in defeating Covid. We have over 5 million cases.”
More than 170,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
With more than 32,000 deaths, New York remains the hardest-hit state. But Cuomo’s strict lockdown and methodical reopening have turned it into a model for recovery with a low level of contagion this summer even as the virus continues to ravage Florida, Texas and other parts of the country that rushed to reopen.
When New York was the pandemic’s epicentre in April, Cuomo’s daily briefings became must-watch TV nationwide as he sought to help Americans absorb the enormity of the crisis.
His command of the health data and empathy with the suffering of New Yorkers contrasted with Trump’s disregard for scientific expertise, refusal to call for nationwide sacrifice and reluctance to recognise the pain of those who have lost loved ones.
Cuomo’s popularity soared as Trump’s dropped.
Cuomo suggested Covid-19 was a symptom of a sharply divided nation in crisis. He cited anti-Semitism, “anti-immigrant fervour” and the racism on display in the violent 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, “where the KKK didn’t even bother to wear their hoods”.
“Donald Trump didn’t create the initial division,” Cuomo said. “The division created Trump. He only made it worse.”
He described Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as “a leader who appeals to the best within us, not the worst, a leader who can unify, not divide, a leader who can bring us up, not tear us down”.
Steve Guest, the rapid response director at the Republican National Committee, said Biden’s record of responding to pandemics when he was vice-president was “dismal”.
“Andrew Cuomo’s appearance at Joe Biden’s convention is a stark reminder of the Democrats’ failed responses to pandemics,” he said, citing the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 and 2010.
In that outbreak, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,469 people died in the US. In the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the agency said, one person in the US died.
DPA, Reuters and Tribune News Service