by Sharon Rondeau

(Apr. 11, 2020) — In a news conference on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted “there is no political conspiracy” in the fact that a projection showing more than two million U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic appears to have been vastly overstated.

At Friday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Trump stressed that while the now-60,000 projection of lives lost through this coming August is too many, it is far less than even the revised number of perhaps 100,000 deaths.

Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has recently acknowledged that the IHME model upon which the team initially relied far exceeded the unfolding number of fatalities, which she said has been affected positively by Americans’ mitigation efforts.  Based at the University of Washington, the IHME is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The disparity between the anticipated number of deaths and the actual number to date has prompted some to suggest that the projections were exaggerated, might not have necessitated a shutdown of the U.S. economy and subsequent job losses, and could have been politically-motivated.

Graphics displayed as Cuomo spoke show that a sharp decrease in hospitalizations in New York has occurred over the last five days.  However, he reported that 783 people passed away between Friday and Saturday.  Total New Yorkers who have lost their lives from the pandemic now total 8,627, Cuomo reported.

To the question, “What do we do now?” Cuomo said that “more testing” for the virus is required.  As for “reopening” New York State for business, he said that “the federal stimulus bill is going to be key,” referring to the CARES Act passed in late March designed to provide funds to business-owners to retain their employees even as their businesses remain shuttered.

“This is no time for politics,” Cuomo said. He opined that any future congressional stimulus bill should be less “political” and “less pork-barrel.”  He also said that while he has had political differences with President Trump in the past, they are working well together now.

He complimented Trump on the speed with which he has “responded to New York’s needs.”

“We have kept politics out of this crisis…I have no personal politics; I’m not running for anything; I’m governor of New York, thank you, and that’s where I’m going to stay,” he added.

“There are no political conspiracies here; all the projection models have basically said the same thing,” Cuomo continued.  “Everyone has basically said the same thing.  All the experts…had higher projection numbers than we actually experienced, and they all said:  ‘Caveat:  Government action could flatten the curve, but we don’t know what governments will do and we don’t know if people will even listen to what governments will do.'”

He cited a number of models showing much higher U.S. death rates from the pandemic.  “The estimate has now been adjusted down, but they’re still at 60,000 deaths that they’re projecting,” he said of the IHME model.

The CDC originally believed as many as 214 million Americans would becom “infected” and as many as 2.4 million would require hospitalization, Cuomo reported with another slide.  “We only have 925,000 beds in the United States of America; how would you hospitalize 2.4 million to 21 million people?” he asked rhetorically.  “And that was the CDC.”

“So there was no political conspiracy theory; there is no political conspiracy theory; it’s uncharted waters for all of us,” he said.  “So let’s focus on the facts, let’s focus on the data, and let’s make decisions that way.”

“It’s too soon for Monday-morning quarterbacking,” he continued, “because it isn’t over yet.”  He said a “bet” cannot be collected “because it’s half-time.”

A “new phase” is unfolding, Cuomo said, focused on how to reopen the economy.  He said the U.S. economy cannot open without its “engine,” signifying New York City.

“Reopening is both a public health question and an economic question, and I’m unwilling to divorce the two,” he said.  “There is no economic answer that does not attend to public health.  In my opinion, you can’t ask the people of this state or this country to choose between lives lost and dollars gained.  No one is going to make that quid pro quo…one cannot be at the expense of the other.”

He said reopening the economy too soon could lead to a resurgence of the coronavirus.  He will be assembling a team of experts, he said, to examine “all the science available.”

“This is a time where our actions, literally, will determine life and death,” he said.



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