Three ways New York botched the coronavirus response in March

3) Ideologically motivated decision-making.

Many of the de Blasio administration’s most scientifically unsupported statements during the coronavirus outbreak have been used in the service of justifying his most heavily scrutinized policies. This is no accident.

Faced with a literal life-and-death issue, the mayor has in several critical moments chosen his own ideological commitments over the urgent advice of health scientists. None more important than his treatment of the country’s largest school system.

New York City was far behind the national and international curve in closing down public schools to stop the community spread of COVID-19. The reason had little to do with science—indeed, Demetre Daskalakis, the city’s head of disease control, reportedly threatened to quit if the schools were not shuttered, as did several other city health officials.

But de Blasio sees schools as delivery systems of government services to the poor, and as the Times delicately (and over-generously) phrased it, the mayor’s “progressive political identity has been defined by his attention to the city’s have-nots.” So even as three dozen city virologists were warning that keeping the schools open amounted to “gambl[ing] with the lives of New Yorkers,” de Blasio was exempting the institutions from his order to stop all city gatherings of 500 or more people, explaining with perhaps more literalism than he intended that the schools were one of “three things we want to preserve at all cost.”