Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday brushed off Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threats to pull funding for Big Apple schools over violations of lockdown orders in coronavirus hot zones, calling it mere “bluster.”
A few minutes later Cuomo fired back, all but saying, ‘try me.’
“I’m very used to bluster from Washington and from Albany. I’ve heard a lot of it,” de Blasio told reporters during a City Hall press briefing when asked about Cuomo’s threats.
Hizzoner added, “I understand bluster when I see it, but here we have a job to do — the job is to protect New Yorkers. That’s what I’m focused on every day.”
Cuomo threatened to withhold state funding for the schools caught operating in the city’s coronavirus red zones during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
Television cameras had captured yeshivas operating in the southern Brooklyn coronavirus red zones areas where the state has imposed new lockdown restrictions including the closure of schools, non-essential businesses and capacity limits on houses of worship.
The state-imposed coronavirus restrictions went into effect in COVID-19 hot spot zones in Brooklyn and Queens last week, and de Blasio said that it won’t be known until Sunday whether those restrictions — which require a two-week minimum, can be lifted by the end of next week.
But, speaking during his own conference call with reporters a short while after de Blasio Thursday, Cuomo said it was his call.
“It is too early to tell. So we stop playing this game where local officials speak about things they have no authority over and then confuse people,” Cuomo said in a clear reference to de Blasio.
He called the decision to lift the new coronavirus restrictions “a total state decision.”
“It’s too early to tell whether or not the 14 days will need to be extended,” Cuomo said. “When we know I will tell you any speculation or guessing beyond that is just speculation or guessing.”
Cuomo railed, “It’s not up to the City of New York, it’s not up to the mayor.”
De Blasio told reporters that he’s “deeply concerned there is a threat of a second [coronavirus] wave,” and explained, “My job is stop a second wave, not play games, not to focus on threats.”
The mayor continued, “That’s what all levels of government should be talking on together and not using wordplay, but actually supporting each other to get this work done.”
In addressing Cuomo’s threats to yank funding, de Blasio said, “The last thing that should happen is to take away resources from a place that is suffering through so much.”
Additionally, de Blasio said the city is working with yeshivas in hot zone areas “to make sure they understand the rules and follow the rules.”
He explained that “there is a gray area that we’re waiting for more guidance from the state on” in regards to child care in connection with the yeshivas.
“We don’t have enough clarity on child care,” de Blasio said.
Cuomo has repeatedly criticized de Blasio for not doing enough to enforce mask compliance and other coronavirus safety protocols throughout the pandemic.
Over the last two weeks, according to de Blasio, the city has conducted more than 18,000 coronavirus-related inspections of schools, stores and community institutions and issued 288 summonses.
Of those summonses, 11 of them were for $15,000.
“When enforcement is necessary, it continues — it continues deeply,” said de Blasio, who noted that the “vast majority of New Yorkers throughout this crisis have done a great job” when it comes to wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Cuomo said Thursday that he’s been in contact “with many of the organizations that are not in compliance” in the COVID-19 hot spot areas.
“I believe compliance is going to increase. I don’t think these organizations want to lose funding,” the governor said. “I think local governments have gotten the message.”
When asked by a reporter about his ongoing feud with Cuomo, de Blasio called it a “moot point.”
“I think people should stop focusing on this,” he said. “I think it’s just a moot point.”
De Blasio insisted that both the city and the state “work together all the time, every hour, every day,” and that they “overwhelmingly” agree “on the broad strategies.”
Meanwhile, de Blasio called this a “decisive week” to stopping a resurgence of the coronavirus.
There continues to be some “leveling off” of infection rates in the hot spot areas and “some improvement,” de Blasio.
“We are seeing a plateauing now of the test results and that is a very good sign,” said de Blasio.
But, he added, “We’ve got more to do,” explaining that testing is “crucial to our efforts.”
In the last two weeks, the city has conducted more than 17,000 tests in coronavirus cluster areas.
Cuomo also announced 200,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits — or half of the state’s supply — are being deployed to New York City’s private and public schools located in “yellow zones” to help them comply with the state health department’s new testing requirements for staffers and students that take effect tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 16.
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