Mr. Cuomo’s cru­cible, and the na­tion’s

New York’s gov­er­nor sets an ex­am­ple for leadership in cri­sis.

The Washington Post - - WEDNESDAY OPINION -

NEW YORK state is ground zero for Amer­ica’s coro­n­avirus pan­demic. Peo­ple who have tested pos­i­tive there rep­re­sent more than half the U.S. in­fec­tions and about 7 per­cent of those glob­ally; the state’s cases, most of them in New York City, are dou­bling ev­ery three days. Its needs — for equip­ment, hospi­tal beds, per­son­nel and ex­per­tise — are as daunt­ing as the scale of the out­break. So is its need for ef­fec­tive, tough-minded, com­pas­sion­ate leadership. For­tu­nately, that is what Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo has been pro­vid­ing.

When the pan­demic’s his­tory is writ­ten, there will be long chap­ters de­tail­ing the mis­takes made by lead­ers. Some of those, in­evitably, will be Mr. Cuomo’s. But what’s no­table is what he is get­ting right as a com­mu­ni­ca­tor, pri­or­ity-set­ter, ad­mon­isher and em­pa­thetic voice of rea­son.

It’s a tricky bal­ance, as is clear from the coun­terex­am­ples set by Pres­i­dent Trump above him and New York Mayor Bill de Bla­sio be­low. As Mr. Trump ducked ac­count­abil­ity for the na­tion’s slug­gish test­ing reg­i­men — “I don’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity at all,” he said — and the mayor hes­i­tated, Mr. Cuomo leaned in to his sweep­ing move last Fri­day to shut­ter nonessen­tial busi­nesses. “There is no one else re­spon­si­ble for this de­ci­sion,” he said flatly. Mr. Trump lashed out at a re­porter who asked how he would com­fort the na­tion. By con­trast, Mr. Cuomo has in­voked his 88-year-old mother by sign­ing “Matilda’s Law,” a set of guide­lines to pro­tect New York­ers age 70 and older; ac­knowl­edged the re­al­ity of “so­cial trauma” and “pain of iso­la­tion”; and spo­ken mov­ingly of his despair at not be­ing able to em­brace his chil­dren.

His em­pha­sis has been on hard­headed ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion. He has or­dered New York hos­pi­tals, whose ca­pac­ity must nearly triple to han­dle the pro­jected wave of sick peo­ple in the next few weeks, to add some 25,000 beds im­me­di­ately; they need tens of thou­sands more. He sus­pended all res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial evic­tions for 90 days. Fu­ri­ous at the crowds con­gre­gat­ing in city parks last week­end, he banned all nonessen­tial gath­er­ings “of any size for any rea­son.” He de­manded that doc­tors and nurses work­ing for in­sur­ance com­pa­nies as claim as­ses­sors be re­leased from their day jobs to at­tend to the sick in hos­pi­tals.

The whole coun­try would be bet­ter off if the fed­eral govern­ment heeded Mr. Cuomo’s call for a stan­dard­ized na­tional shut­down to flat­ten the pan­demic’s growth curve, and a frontal at­tack on the mas­sive short­age of masks, ven­ti­la­tors, test­ing kits and other equip­ment.

Stylis­ti­cally, Mr. Cuomo, a Demo­crat, is not so dif­fer­ent from Mr. Trump, now a Repub­li­can. Both men, from Queens, are blunt, bul­ly­ing, trans­ac­tional rule-break­ers who prize loy­alty and pu­n­ish ad­ver­saries. But gover­nors are prob­lem-solvers by definition: They must bal­ance the bud­get; they must meet pay­roll. Now, as Mr. Trump dan­ger­ously flirts with a pre­ma­ture end to so­cial dis­tanc­ing, the coun­try may have to rely on gover­nors such as Mr. Cuomo to keep its virus re­sponse on a ra­tio­nal and ev­i­den­ce­in­formed track.

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