On The Record: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio's Past Minimizing Of Coronavirus

When in doubt, backtrack, hop on board or move out the way.

Following in the footsteps of the country’s leader, President Trump, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) was met head-on by past comments he made minimizing the threat of the novel coronavirus.

Over the weekend, de Blasio was confronted on CNN’s State of the Union, where he had to face facts about his past statements that ultimately put the New York City citizens’ lives in jeopardy during the pandemic.

“We should not be focusing, in my view, on anything looking back on any level of government right now,” de Blasio responded.

A day after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in New York on March 1, a lawyer from New Rochelle also tested positive for the virus. This was an especially alarming sign because he had not traveled to any of the known affected countries, unlike the first case.

On March 5, de Blasio said, “We’ll tell you the second we think you should change your behavior.”

As the virus slowly crept into the city, de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, were very confident that the virus would be contained.

“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”

As New York City stands today, it is now the hardest-hit city of the outbreak, far more than any other area of the country. More than 130,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus, with nearly all of them in NYC and nearby suburbs.

According to the Washington Post, here’s what de Blasio did and didn’t do in his responses, actions and inactions concerning the coronavirus:

The mayor said Feb. 26 of the city’s 1,200 hospital beds: “We’ve got a long time to ramp up if we ever had anything like that [kind of crisis]. So, the capacity we have right now is outstanding given the challenge we’re facing right now.”

“Occasional contact, glancing contact, temporary contact does not, from everything we know about coronavirus, lead to transmission,” he said March 3. “It needs to be prolonged, you know -- if not intimate, at least prolonged, constant contact.”

He added March 8: “Certainly, on most surfaces like metal, plastic -- you know, a desk, a kitchen counter, a subway pole, it’s only a matter of minutes before the disease dies, the virus dies in the open air.”

“Two people deep in conversation for a half-hour, animated conversation,” de Blasio said. “The best thinking of the medical personnel is that, in animated conversation, sometimes people project some saliva and that may have been the contact. Obviously, another option is someone sneezed or coughed, like looking right at the person they were deep in conversation with."

He added: “So, that’s the evolution -- that is still close proximity, and you need that direct hit, with the exception, again, of right to the hand, right to the face, in fast proximity. Because otherwise the virus just wouldn’t live that long.”

“It’s not people in the stadium, it’s not people in the big open area or a conference and all,” de Blasio said. “It’s people close up to each other, deeply engaging each other to the point that the inadvertent spitting that comes with a conversation sometimes, or a sneeze or a cough, directly goes at the other person in close proximity.”

“New York City as a whole was late in social measures,” said Isaac B. Weisfuse, a former New York City deputy health commissioner. “Any after-action review of the pandemic in New York City will focus on that issue. It has become the major issue in the transmission of the virus.”

Mayor de Blasio, or any other politician for that matter, does not want to be judged by his bad comments or decisions made during an active crisis. It is during those moments, however, where we find out the true character or strength of a person. It is how future decisions are made.

“I am tired of being behind this virus,” Cuomo said on March 31. “We’ve been playing catch-up. You don’t win playing catch-up.”

Attempting to make up for lost time, de Blasio and Cuomo have been focusing their efforts on expanding the ability of the health care system to treat coronavirus patients. The state and city have set up new hospital wards, scoured the world for ventilators and protective gear and aggressively recruited doctors and nurses around the country, the NY Times reports.

On Sunday, de Blasio mentioned, “This is just about how we save lives going forward,” he said. “This was a very different world just a short time ago.”

Though it is a welcome change in direction, it is a little too late for sorries, and shoulda-coulda-woulda-done-betters.