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The coronavirus conundrum

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen Sunday in Albany,

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen Sunday in Albany, said  Monday that social distancing is the "best way" to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Credit: Office of the Governor

Daily Point

Calling for a cease-fire

President Donald Trump’s tweet Monday afternoon seemed fairly non-controversial.

“Just had a very good tele-conference with Nation’s Governors,” Trump wrote. “Went very well.” 

Then came the zinger. 

“Cuomo of New York has to ‘do more.’ ” 

Within minutes, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo responded with a tweet in his very own style. 

“I have to do more?” Cuomo wrote. “No – YOU have to do something! You’re supposed to be the President.”

Then, Cuomo tweeted again, taking it a step further: “Happy to do your job, too. Just give me control of the Army Corps of Engineers and I’ll take it from there.”

During a press conference Monday afternoon, Trump was asked about the Twitter back-and-forth. He repeated that he thought Cuomo could “do more,” citing New Rochelle as a “hot bed” that needed to be “tamped down.” 

But he also noted that Cuomo had commented favorably about the state’s relationship with the federal government. Added Trump: “We’re getting along very well.”

Cuomo has stepped into the national spotlight as the coronavirus pandemic has spread through New York, holding daily news briefings, signing executive orders to encourage social distance, opening drive-thru testing sites, and more. His efforts received praise from Long Island Republicans Pete King and even Lee Zeldin.

Trump, who has privately been complaining about Cuomo’s criticism, went public on the same day Cuomo penned an open letter to Trump published Monday in The New York Times, appeared on the “Today” show, and had his morning briefing carried live by cable news channels. On Sunday, he made an appearance on “60 Minutes,” too.

“We have had disagreements about your actions against New York, which we can pursue another time,” Cuomo wrote in the op-ed. “Today, let’s work together as Americans. Time is short.” 

Even with that ask, the governor gave Trump and Vice President Mike Pence a shout-out during his briefing for expanding virus testing. But Cuomo also frames his remarks in the context of the failure of leadership on the federal level and then goes on to show all the ways he is taking the lead.

This is only the latest public show of the ongoing bad blood between the president and governor. There’ve been disagreements between the two on everything from the federal SALT deductions to federal funding for transportation. 

According to published reports about the conference call, Trump may not be ready to help any of the governors. He told governors that they should try to buy their own medical equipment, including ventilators and respirators. 

Beyond the medical equipment, Cuomo is hoping the Army Corps of Engineers will help to turn the state’s dorms and other buildings into medical facilities.

So, the bigger question about the tiff is whether it’ll mean that Trump holds back from specifically helping New York.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Petition precautions

Among the functions of New York political life hit by coronavirus is the petitioning process through which candidates obtain signatures to get on the ballot for state and federal races. 

Over the weekend, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suspended the process as of Tuesday given the coronavirus threat, and slashed the number of petitions needed to 30 percent of the statutory threshold. 

Many campaigns on Long Island had suspended their signature-gathering or had taken unusual precautions as they went door to door. CD1 Democratic hopeful Bridget Fleming told The Point her team had given volunteers extra pens, so signatories could select a new pen from a container and then just keep it.

Fleming said she pulled everyone off the streets Saturday and that she already has more than enough signatures. 

Petitions are an often-tricky issue in New York, with outsider challengers, who don’t have the help of their parties, sometimes struggling to gain enough valid signatures. Ahead of Cuomo’s order, candidates across the state had called for changes to the process so they wouldn’t have to go house to house while trying to hit their quota. 

Those fears seem like another era now. Even election dates themselves are uncertain, with the cancellation of the Queens borough president special election in New York City, and the shifting of presidential primaries in other states. 

Candidates are getting used to the new reality, even if they have taken care of the petitioning situation. Perry Gershon, another CD1 Democrat, had the next in his series of town halls scheduled in Bellport on Wednesday. It’s now a Facebook Live town hall, but the campaign originally sent more than 3,800 invites around two weeks ago. So the campaign is letting people know about the shift through social media posts, blast emails and robocalls.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Uncle Sam says...

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Quick Points

  • President Donald Trump said Sunday that the government has “tremendous control” over the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious diseases expert at the National Institutes of Health, said the same day that the worst is yet to come. Who do you believe?
  • What do Iran, Australia, Brazil, Italy, France, the European Union, Spain, Britain, Poland, New York State and Miami have in common? At least one government official who’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Nassau County’s new family and matrimonial courthouse, which began construction in 2014, is now $47 million over budget and scheduled for completion in late 2021. In other words, erecting this modest two-story building is taking longer than  most every court proceeding that will be held in it.
  • Can we all agree that one of the big winners of the Democratic debate Sunday night was the format? No audience, no distractions, no interruptions, just two candidates talking.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that “the only hope is that the federal government actually wakes up and realizes we are in a war...” He said that before he himself woke up and closed city schools and limited bars and restaurants to takeout.
  • Sports being added to the Tokyo Olympics in July are karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding. But none of those is drawing as much interest at the newest Olympic sport: Wondering whether, in the age of coronavirus, Japanese officials can live up to their vow that the Games will go on as planned.
  • Fans at a weekend soccer match in St. Petersburg, Russia, where games have not been canceled due to the coronavirus, chanted, “We’re all going to die.” Which, of course, will eventually be true.
  • California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes urged “healthy” people to take their families and go out to eat at restaurants instead of ordering in food or buying extra groceries. Ignorance is also contagious.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie