NY Governor Cuomo Urges America to Reconsider Reopening as New Coronavirus Model Doubles Deaths

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has questioned how highly some leaders value human life as states press forward with plans to reopen the economy even as the projected U.S. death toll due to COVID-19 continues to rise.

"How much do we think a human life is worth?" Cuomo asked during his Tuesday press briefing. "There is a cost of staying home, no doubt. Economic cost, personal cost. There is also a cost of reopening quickly... the faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost. Because the more lives lost. That, my friends, is the decision we are really making."

Cuomo noted that projections of COVID-19 cases and deaths have risen dramatically as states have moved to relax preventative measures, including projections from the U.S. government. He cited a report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggesting that new cases could reach 200,000 per day with 3,000 daily deaths by June 1.

The governor also pointed out that a model previously cited by the White House, from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, had increased the estimated death count from 60,000 to around 134,000 on Monday because "growing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus."

"That's a very nice way of saying, when you accelerate the reopening you will have more people coming into contact with other people, you're relaxing social distancing," said Cuomo. "The more people come in contact with other people, the higher the infection rate of the spread the virus. The more people get infected, the more people die. We know that."

Andrew Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to the press at a daily briefing in Albany, New York on May 1, 2020. Stefani Reynolds/Getty

Cuomo insisted that New York's plan to reopen will not include a "trade-off" that places a dollar amount on lives or mandates a rigid timeline, saying that the state would reopen fully "when it's safe."

He also said that when the state did reopen it would be with a "circuit breaker" that could force businesses to shut down again if key indicators like transmission rates, hospitalization rates or death rates increased due to reopening.

The governor blasted those who would "camouflage the actual terms of the discussion we're having" and urged leaders to be "honest" when discussing the consequences of reopening the economy against the advice of public health experts.

"The question comes back to 'how much is a human life worth?'" Cuomo said. "That is the real discussion that no one is admitting, openly or freely. But we should. To me, I say the cost of a human life, a human life is priceless. Period."

Cuomo also suggested that politics had poisoned national discourse about the pandemic, which he insisted should not be a partisan issue.

"If we can't past this now, when can we ever get past it?" asked the governor. "You have national crisis, a national outbreak, a national epidemic killing thousands of people. You can't put your politics aside even now?"

Newsweek reached out to Cuomo's office for additional comment. This article will be updated with any response.