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Andrew Cuomo: Governor Steers New York through Corona Crisis

He calls it "Matilda's Law" – after his 88-year-old mother, patriarch of the Cuomo clan and former first lady of New York. "We have to be very careful with the most vulnerable people," says Andrew Cuomo. "Mother, father, sister, friend, everyone has someone."

As of Sunday, New York's governor is putting curfew on nearly 20 million Americans with the decree: New Yorkers should only leave the house to shop, go to the pharmacy or do "indispensable" work. At the latest now, the last people will also understand seriousness of the situation. "We are all in quarantine now," says Cuomo. "And that's difficult."

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The US Democrat has been showing what leadership means for weeks. While the White House often only contains contradictory information, false reports, praise or ranting, Cuomo sits down in the "Red Room" of the New York Capitol every morning, looks at the TV cameras and controls his state as best he can a mixture of feeling, hardness and humor through this state of emergency.

In between, he records a 30-minute podcast with the "New York Times", which is almost like a meditation. Or talks and jokes on television with his younger brother, CNN presenter Chris Cuomo. With all of this he fights the virus. Cuomo does what Trump can't "A crisis shows you someone's soul," he says at one of these press conferences, which – in contrast to the chaotic show in Washington – is almost too much for many New Yorkers have become therapeutic "Must See TV". "It shows you what someone is made of. The weaknesses explode and the strengths, uh, increase." He doesn't name names, he doesn't have to.

Crisis management is his strength. He has been a governor for almost ten years, almost as long as his legendary father Mario Cuomo, who held this position from 1983 to 1994. During the son's tenure, New York was hit by blizzards, blackouts, storm surges and the fatal hurricane "Sandy". And now the corona virus. Cuomo is right in the middle of it, he organizes, forbids, regulates, threatens, consoles, calms and above all always pushes to the center, also undesirable, typical for a guy from Queens. But unlike the other guy from Queens, Donald Trump, he is not afraid to take responsibility: "I take full responsibility," he says when, after a long hesitation, he announces the curfew. "If someone wants to complain or blame – blame me."

On the other hand, when asked a week earlier about his neglect of the corona crisis, the US president said, "I don't take any responsibility at all."

Experience with crises: Cuomo with President Barack Obama after hurricane "Sandy" 2012
REUTERS

Cuomo does the opposite of Trump. "We New Yorkers can count ourselves lucky," says Joyce Purnick, the long-time doyenne of local journalists, SPIEGEL. "Cuomo filled the vacuum early and gave us the informed, reassuring guidance we don't get from Trump." This leadership needs New York. The state has become America's coronavirus hotspot, with nearly 8,000 infections recently, an increase of 25 percent in less than 48 hours. Of these, 5,151 cases were in New York City alone, the most populous, densely packed US metropolis, which is now also becoming a ghost town.

Cuomo filled the vacuum early and gave us the informed, soothing guidance we don't get from Trump.

Cuomo, 62 years old and in a relationship with TV chef Sandra Lee, communicates these numbers without downplaying or dramatizing them. Emergency, yes. But: "This is not a nuclear holocaust." Above all, he adds: Think of those who are alone "who are afraid". Only a few words were enough to save a life: "I miss you. I love you. I think of you."

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Controversial measures against Corona When Trump reduced the corona virus, Cuomo held his first crisis meeting. According to information from the magazine "Politico", he distributed a three-page memo in which he had already listed his planned actions in detail. His advisors had warned him that many of these measures would be controversial if not illegal. Nevertheless, Cuomo persuaded the state parliament to "suspend" more than 60 laws and regulations. His argument: a vote, on the other hand, was a vote for the virus, and he sent the National Guard to New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City that turned out to be a corona fire. He pressured New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a party rival, to close the schools. He appealed to Trump to "mobilize the military" to compensate for the impending bed emergency in the hospitals.

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Controversial measure: Cuomo sent the National Guard to New Rochelle
SPENCER PLATT / AFP

"He is the captain of the ship," said Eric Adams, the progressive district mayor of Brooklyn and otherwise a critic of Cuomo's SPIEGEL. "This is his show, and the best we can do as soldiers is to follow the general." Cuomo is already being treated as a potential president, as is the case here. After all, his appearances are spreading more confidence than Joe Biden's stubborn efforts to give anti-Trump. Supposedly, Cuomo is said to have flirted with entering the Democratic race last year if Biden gets out of the car – no wonder Trump can't stand him. When Cuomo criticized the "lack of state leadership" at the beginning of the crisis, the president promptly shot back via Twitter: "Cuomo from New York has to do more." What he did not let up: "I have to do more?" Cuomo replied. "No – you have to do something! You should be the president!" In the meantime they have buried the hatchet, there are more important problems. The virus has also arrived in Cuomo's immediate political environment: On Friday evening, an employee of his press office tested positive for the corona virus.
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