An interesting bit of perspective on the shutdown situation in New York City comes to us this week from NY Daily News columnist Robert A. George, a resident of the Big Apple himself. Along with the rest of us, the author has been watching as the various demonstrations have played out across the five boroughs for the past few days. Some have been relatively peaceful with strong opinions being shared. Far too many more have quickly devolved into violent riots featuring assaults, arson and looting. But these events have brought one thing to light for Rob that others may have missed. At no point have either the Governor nor the Mayor taken note of the fact that there is little to no social distancing going on and the participants in these activities have already pretty much ended the novel coronavirus shutdown. So why hasn’t the government gotten the hint? This thing is over, ready or not.
Yes, you both expressed worry Monday morning about infection spikes in the coming weeks due to the protesters (though the mayor had to be prompted via a reporter’s question), but you both barely mentioned it in your weekend briefings. By opting not to impose either citywide or statewide curfews over four nights — by waiting to announce a curfew for Monday evening — you essentially conceded the rules do not apply for the marching thousands.
That means you both made the decision that certain things — political protest — are more important than public health considerations. Little more than two weeks ago, New Yorkers saw police officers throwing a young mother forcibly to the ground for the “offense” of not having her mask on incorrectly. Yet for four days, thousands marched and assembled close together, hardly any social distancing either with themselves or with the police (many of whom were maskless). The rules do not apply for mass protest.
It’s time to end them for everyone else who have been scrupulously altering their behavior for three months.
Rob points out that continued suppression of public activity and commerce likely isn’t going to produce much more of a decrease in COVID-19 deaths at this point. (There were 54 deaths in the entire state on Sunday.) And if there’s going to be another spike of the virus coming, it won’t be brought by the people who were still sheltering in their homes or the workers and business owners impatiently waiting to get back to business but following the rules. It will come from hundreds of thousands of people who have been flooding the streets day and night, some mostly peacefully, others with malice aforethought.
There wasn’t a curfew issued until last night. And pretty much everyone ignored it anyway, except for the non-criminal residents who were still following the rules and sheltering in place instead of rioting. Continuing to keep them locked down is simply a punishment for those who have committed no crime at this point. If the viral genie is back out of the bottle now, it’s because of those who were refusing to follow the rules to begin with, and we won’t be putting it back in that bottle anytime soon.
Also, Rob makes a good point of noting that the tension on the streets between the protesters and the police is almost certainly being exacerbated by the shutdown. Everyone is on edge. Their nerves are frayed to the breaking point. It didn’t take much of a match to ignite this simmering situation into a bonfire… in the case of many of the rioters, literally. This is New York. The City that Never Sleeps. And the government has forced it into a medical coma for three months. The residents of Gotham are going stir crazy, and now these George Floyd protests have provided a valve for a lot of that built-up tension to explode. And they’ve also shown the folly of the Governor and the Mayor trying to force the lockdown down everyone’s throats for additional weeks or months.
As of this morning, Mayor de Blasio was still insisting that religious institutions and small business owners must remain closed, despite the masses of people filling the streets. You can read his nonsensical explanation for this at National Review. But that’s going to need to change, and sooner rather than later.
I’ll close by quoting the introduction of Rob’s column, which I skipped past at the top of this article. Take it to heart.
Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio: End it.
End New York City’s lockdown. Not next Monday, now. Not a piecemeal “Phase One” ending that means construction and manufacturing can resume, along with curbside retail. End it all. Start bringing this city back to life before it’s too late.
End it. Sorry, but your precious metrics and thresholds are as aflame as the average NYPD cruiser.