This is the third Sunday I’m posting some words from Governor Andrew Cuomo. His morning briefings are the ballast that anchor my day. I am grateful for his intelligence and heart, his clarity and commitment. And I love his accent.
Know what you are doing before you do it. Those are words to live by. We want to un-pause. We all have to be smart about it. There is no light switch where you flick a switch and everybody goes back to doing what they’re doing. We have to learn the lessons, we have to move forward, and we have to be smart, because if you are not smart, you will see that infection rate go right back to where it was.
Do we have testing in place? Do we have a tracing system in place? Testing, tracing, isolating. That has to be in place. Test people. You then trace the contacts. You find the positive people, and you isolate them. That system has to be in place.
So is life going to be different? Yes, life is going to be different, but different in this case can mean better if we’re smart about it, and when we’re finished going through this, we should be tougher and smarter and more resilient and more unified and better than before.
We have gone through hell and back over the past 60 or so days. What we’ve done has been tremendous, really tremendous and what the American people have done, what New Yorkers have done, has been to save lives, literally, but we have to remain vigilant. This is not over. I know as much as we want it to be over, it’s not over.
We can’t now negate everything that we accomplished. We have to do the opposite. We have to take this experience, and we have to learn and grow from the experience, and we have to build back better than before.
So we have to figure these things out. We also have to remember that as a society and as a community, we’re about government and we’re about systems. But even more, we are about values. What makes us who we are, are our values.
And that’s my last point. Protect and respect the essential workers. I had two nightmares when this started. One, that I would put out directives on what we need to do and 19 million New Yorkers would say, “I haven’t been convinced, I’m not going to do this.”
Second nightmare was what if the essential workers don’t show up? You have to have food. You have to have transportation. The lights have to be on. Someone has to pick up the garbage. The hospitals have to run.
They showed up. I just finished communicating how dangerous this was to convince 19 million people to stay home and close schools and close businesses, and the essential workers still showed up.
They showed up out of their values and out of their honor and out of their dignity. My grandfather, people know my father in this state, my grandfather, little Italian immigrant, Andrea Cuomo, named for him, no education, ditch digger, came here. The classic immigrant story, winds up having a little grocery store in South Jamaica, Queens, poor community. And during the Depression, he almost lost the store. Why did he almost lose the store?
Well, it was the Depression and the finances. No, because he gave away food, because he wouldn’t let anyone be hungry. A family would come in and he would give them food. And he was giving away so much food that he had problems paying his bills, gave him a lot of stress, wound up having a heart attack as a young person, but no one told him to do that. That was just his values. And I would ask him about it afterwards. I said, “Grandpa, well, why would you…” He said, “What am I going to do? Let them go hungry? I’m going to let somebody go hungry?” That was unimaginable to him.
He was an essential worker. Nobody called him an essential worker, but he was an essential worker and that’s what people are doing day in and day out here.
The person who delivers the groceries, the person who’s driving the bus, the person who’s driving the subway, the nurses, the doctors, the orderlies, all these people who are showing up every day, not because of the check. No, they’re doing it out of their sense of honor and their sense of dignity and their sense of pride. This is their mission. This is their role. They’re New Yorkers, they’re Americans and they’re going to show up.
That’s why I wanted to thank the healthcare workers and everybody thanks the healthcare workers, but it’s not just the healthcare workers. It’s all the people who’ve been out there all this time making sure everyone else could stay home. They have higher infection rates. They’re getting paid a minimal amount of money. They have families at home too that are suffering, but they’re getting up every day and they’re doing their job. So as we talk about reopening, protect and respect the essential workers. They need testing. They need equipment. They’re putting their lives on the line.
Protect and respect the essential workers.