Gov. Andrew Cuomo arrives for a briefing on the state’s COVID-19 response. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo berated reporters during a tense coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday.
As Cuomo was being asked about whether New York City schools would close amid a surge in cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio was running more than five hours late to his own COVID-19 news conference.
Cuomo found out from a reporter at the end of the briefing that NYC schools would be closed on Thursday because the city’s school chancellor broke the news after the governor was already seated at the podium.
The ensuing confusion typified the disjointed pandemic response between the Empire State’s governor and the Big Apple’s mayor.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday during which he berated reporters, even shouting at times, before ultimately finding out that New York City public schools would be closing the following day amid a spike in coronavirus cases.
The governor did not find out from Mayor Bill de Blasio — who was running more than five hours late to his earlier scheduled coronavirus briefing — or a city or state official. It was a reporter that tipped him off.
Cuomo’s briefing and de Blasio’s tardiness typified the disjointed COVID-19 response between the Empire State’s governor and the Big Apple’s mayor, who have long feuded during their overlapping time in office.
The governor first lashed out at the veteran New York Capitol reporter Jimmy Vielkind of The Wall Street Journal, who asked the first question of the news conference on whether schools would close in New York City.
At the time of the question on Wednesday afternoon, Richard Carranza, the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, had not yet made the announcement that the city’s schools would be moving to remote learning because community spread of the virus exceeded a predetermined 3% rate.
“First of all, let’s try not to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone because you’re 100% wrong,” Cuomo told Vielkind.
The governor then began yelling at Vielkind.
“Read the law and you won’t be confused,” Cuomo said. “The schools are open by state law.”
Jesse McKinley, a reporter at The New York Times, defended Vielkind, saying the question on what parents need to know about school closures “wasn’t obnoxious at all.”
“Well, I don’t really care what you think,” Cuomo replied. “Of course you agree with him because you’re in the same business as him.”
Cuomo ostensibly ended the briefing a short while later, but McKinley was able to squeeze in one final question.
He informed Cuomo that the NYC school chancellor had made the announcement during the briefing.
Cuomo, who has been promoting a book touting his leadership during the pandemic, appeared to mishear at first, reiterating de Blasio’s criteria for a 3% infection rate to close schools.
McKinley said he was “asking for a reaction,” since the decision had already been made.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Say that again?” Cuomo said. “So the mayor is saying it hit 3%?”
The chancellor made the announcement, not the mayor, McKinley clarified.
Then another reporter chimed in and asked Cuomo: “Your microcluster strategy is not working at this point to curb the statewide spread. What do you have to say about that?”
“Let’s not talk your characterizations, OK? And your adverbs. Let’s talk fact,” Cuomo said. “So success becomes what? How you’re doing relative to everybody else.”
The governor repeated that New York’s infection rate has been among the lowest in the country for months after being walloped by the virus at the onset of the pandemic.
“New Yorkers are doing a great job,” Cuomo said. “And don’t demean them … It’s disrespectful to New Yorkers.”
At the time of publishing, Cuomo’s office had not responded to Insider’s request for comment.
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