The urgency of reopening suddenly dawns on a few Democrats while Biden pushes for trillions more in spending, including billions for states that were already rejected by the Senate, with precious little mention of actually reopening. Who’s leading who in the Democrat party?
“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared this week, prompting the obvious question: What’s changed?
The latest metrics on the spread of coronavirus aren’t exactly positive, either in New York or throughout the country. Less than two weeks ago, there were renewed fears of a surge upon a surge thanks to too much holiday travel, but now that’s right down the classic memory hole.
As of January 11, the seven day average case positivity rate in the United States stands at 13%. This is down somewhat from a peak of 13.7% on January 8, but still substantially higher than the safe zone of under 5% and up considerably even since Thanksgiving. New York’s numbers are a bit better, with a seven day rolling average of 7.3%. Some of that is deceptive though: New York regularly accounts for over 10% of the testing in the entire country yet only 5.9% of the population. Adjusted for population, their numbers are around the national average.
Either way, these are exactly the sort of numbers that have prompted Cuomo to institute everything from restaurant to school closures in the recent past, as recent as January 4, in fact. Way back then, Cuomo wanted to shutdown schools in any county with a positivity rate over 9%, but ultimately relented. “I understand the primacy and the history of local control of education, I respect it. I gave my opinion but it will be up to the local school districts to decide,” he said at the time.
Cuomo’s opposition to opening schools was so strong he got into yet another spat with fellow Democrat and New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio. “January 4th was the day we plan to come back and we’re confident that this is the right way to go. And that testing starts again today. And it will be every school every week to make sure everyone’s safe,” de Blasio said during the showdown.
Neither is the death rate any more promising. On January 7, the United States recorded more deaths than any other day of the entire pandemic, a sobering 4,112. That number was eclipsed just 5 days later, with 4,406 deaths reported on January 12. Sadly, deaths have been on a horrifically upward trend since early November and show no signs of slowing down.
Nor has New York been spared. Their death toll has not been below 100 since December 16, usually above 150 during that period and frequently getting close to 200. Despite all this, Cuomo suddenly sounds like Donald Trump. The cost is too high is just another way of saying the cure can’t be worse than the disease, the outgoing President’s oft-repeated refrain since last April.
Neither is Cuomo the only Democrat with a sudden revelation that locking down forever might not be a good idea. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam have also signaled they are now onboard the opening express, call it the Trump Train.
Once again, what changed?
Call me a cynic, but doesn’t Biden get inaugurated next week? Could it possibly be that good economic numbers are now more important than they were when Trump was in office?
It’s not like Democrats haven’t played politics with the virus in the past. We’ve seen everything from denying the imminent arrival of a vaccine, to questioning its efficacy and safety, all concerns suddenly wiped away as soon as Biden won the election, to public health officials claiming it’s alright to waive restrictions for social justice fueled protests. Less than two weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi invited members who’d tested positive back to the Capitol just so they could vote on her for Speaker.
Throughout it all, we’ve also witnessed a stunning refusal to clearly consider the entire state of Florida or any other Republican controlled state that outperformed New York, New Jersey, Michigan, etc. without the same onerous restrictions to crush their economies. Florida, for example, has had no mask mandate and no restrictions on restaurants since August. Life is close to normal in the Sunshine State, and yet it’s coronavirus numbers are better than New York.
Despite being a more populous state, Florida is regularly reporting less cases and deaths in recent days even before you adjust for population size. Simply put, on average, you’re much more likely to be alive in Florida. New York has 39,760 reported deaths and 1.18 million reported cases compared to Florida’s 23,395 deaths and 1.52 million cases, meaning if you live in Florida your odds of surviving the disease are more than twice as high.
And yet they gave Cuomo on Emmy for his performance. One of the most common refrains we’ve heard is that Cuomo and other Democrats told the unvarnished truth and listened to the experts. In that regard, much fanfare was made over soon-to-be President Biden announcing his coronavirus advisory board shortly after the election, promising a new day in combating the virus.
Last night, Biden made a prime time address on his coronavirus relief plan. The only problem is: He didn’t brief his advisory board until today, and they had no idea what he was going to say. Politico reported before the speech, “on the eve of Biden’s Thursday rollout, the board members are largely in the dark about the plan’s details, according to three people familiar.”
They continued, noting that Biden’s response “is expected to serve as a blueprint for pandemic efforts across the government, including a range of initiatives…But most of the Covid advisory board…will not be briefed on the plan until tomorrow afternoon.”
The plan itself was largely stimulus 4.0 (or is it 5.0?), $1.9 trillion dollars to fight the virus and help the economy. Called the American Rescue Plan, NPR reports that the package includes “$1,400 direct stimulus checks, which would supplement the $600 checks Congress passed late last year. Biden also proposes an additional $160 billion for a national vaccine program, including $20 billion for distribution, and an additional $50 billion for expanded testing.”
For those hoping Biden would be a chance to break from the policies of the past, you know the policies universally decried by Democrats and the mainstream media as killing people, it’s more of the same with more money. The similarities are down to making the American people whole with a total of $2,000 in stimulus payments requested by President Trump late last year.
Biden noted, “We have to act, and we have to act now. We cannot afford inaction.”
The plan, however, had precious little action towards re-opening the economy. There were billions for schools ($130 billion) and states ($350 billion), and a $15 minimum wage component as a sop to progressives, but where are you gonna work when large swaths of the country remain at least partially shut down?
There were also hazy ideas for the future, some other plan presented in some other month, infrastructure and the like, but it seems Biden’s plan is to buy our way from here to there. In the meantime, I fear Springsteen’s prescient lyric from My Hometown: Foreman says these jobs are going boys, and they ain’t coming back.
In other words, as Cuomo aptly noted, there will be nothing left to open by the time Biden is done.