Editorial: Leaders in Time of Crisis

Editorial: Leaders in Time of Crisis

From left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). Photo from the governor’s office

In the panic of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed, by several differing estimates, 50 to 100 million people worldwide, nobody trusted anybody, whether it was their neighbors or even their friends or family. The distrust started early when the government started lying to them, telling them it was just another standard flu, not to be worried about. 

Once people saw men and women bleeding from their mouths and noses in the middle of the street, they knew it wasn’t just a mild influenza. The level of trust was so bad there were reports people starved in their homes, with nobody willing to bring them food in the most rural areas of this country.

A crisis requires clear leadership. It cannot be politically motivated. It cannot be muddled in the daily sparring of political actors. It has to be precise, meaningful and factual. 

We here at TBR News Media are thankful that some officials are doing just that today in our time of crisis. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has to be commended for his response to the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo laid his cards on the table. He has been upfront about getting people statistics and updates on what the state is doing. He has made more and more drastic decisions in order to curb the number of infected people within the state.

“If you are upset by what we have done, be upset at me,” he said at a March 17 press conference. “County executives did not do this. The village mayor did not do this. The city mayor did not make these decisions. I made these decisions.”

Cuomo added, “The buck stops on my desk … I assume full responsibility.”

By owning the problems these executive decisions have caused, the governor has accepted the responsibility for everything that is happening and will happen. 

That doesn’t just take guts, that takes a true sense of civic responsibility and leadership.

We agree with that. We need only look at Italy to see just how destabilizing the disease can be if it’s left unchecked for too long. Doctors and nurses there have been made to triage, making decisions that mean life and death for some patients rather than others. 

We should also laud County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who on his daily calls with the press has been forthcoming in all details related to COVID-19. His answers have so far been consistent, and we hope such reliable communication continues.

There is no way to know the true impact of everything going on here long term. As expansive testing makes its way onto Long Island, finally, the number of known cases has spiked. We have not seen the end of it, nor really the peak, medical experts have warned.

That’s not even mentioning the economic impacts. Companies, both large and small, being shuttered for weeks on end could mean many thousands of unemployed people in just a few short months regardless of stimulus packages from Congress. Business owners have had to limit hours and foot traffic, or otherwise close completely. Many of those storefronts may never open their doors again.

There’s something strange about how mankind seeks strong leadership in trying times. There have been more than one book and movie about how people have handed power over to tyrants when the stage is set for mass upheaval. 

But this is a case of officials doing what they were elected to do. Every measure is instigated with a calm reassurance with a note of trying to make things better. This is New York at its best. We saw it with 9/11, and we’re seeing it here again. 

That is the kind of leadership we need now.

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