The coronavirus pandemic hit New York state harder than almost anywhere else in the world. While everyone was worried about California’s vulnerability with flights coming from China, New York City got surprised by an explosion of COVID-19 cases from infected patients flying in from Europe in mid February.

New York City quickly became one of the major epicenters of COVID-19, with overrun hospitals, along with lack of equipment, ICU beds and PPE. Queens New York was the worst-infected district in the worst-infected city. They called it a “living hell,” with 5,000 new cases per day and hospitals reaching a tipping point far sooner than anyone expected. Patients lined the hallways and waiting rooms were screened off to make temporary wards. 

To date, New York state has 400,000 cases and over 30,000  deaths, with 20,000 deaths in New York City alone. 

Medical workers putting on PPEs at the beginning of their shift at the emergency field hospital run by Samaritan’s Purse and Mount Sinai Health System in Central Park in New York. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

This week we’re taking a moment to celebrate New York’s example. While the disease continues to rapidly spread and we’re seeing a second wave of COVID cases in many states in the U.S. that reopened earlier, the worst of the local New York outbreak appears to be behind us. At this point, the virus is not spiking in New York, and cases continue to drop—despite concerns earlier this month that the massive Black Lives Matter protests would result in a new spike.

The comparisons from April to current day give the best perspective:

  • Daily deaths on April 8 was 799; it’s now 17.  
  • Number of people hospitalized was close to 20,000 compared to 1,000 this week. 
  • There were 5,000 ICU patients in mid-April compared to 300 on average now. 

As of June, New York now has the lowest rate of coronavirus transmission of every state in the country. Going from worst to first. 

How did NY do it? Great leadership

During all this chaos, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did the unimaginable.  He asked all 19 million New Yorkers to Stay At Home before it was a common request . . . and he did it with care and inclusion.

He knew a community effort based on human kindness could have the best results . So he took time to be transparent and patiently outline the facts to New Yorkers. He spoke about personal responsibility and got them involved in the solution: “This virus is truly vicious, and we all have an obligation to do what we can to protect each other. If there was ever a time to show kindness, it is now.”

For the past four months, I have watched his 111 live national daily coronavirus briefings to disseminate information and guide citizens. These briefings have been informative, heartwarming and very connecting—like sitting together at a kitchen table.  

His briefings have been compared to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats during the Great Depression and World War II.

His messages are community focused, emphasizing that we determine what will happen. His Instagram campaign, #IStayHomeFor, with Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, reinforced the message to stay home and stop the spread, “if not for ourselves, for the vulnerable people we love around us.” 

His Wear A Mask challenge was launched to remind people why they’re wearing a mask and how it shows respect to others. He said, “I wear a mask for you and you wear a mask for me.”

Overall, he kept everyone connected and inspired through calm, caring, open communication

Highlight of the Week

Because of the managed control of COVID in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently held his last regularly scheduled coronavirus press briefing.

An emotional Cuomo praised New Yorkers for their handling of what he called “111 days of hell.”  He likened the last few months to climbing Mount Everest—49 days up and 62 days down.  

By Ray Sanchez, CNN

“Over the past three months, we have done the impossible,” he said. “We are controlling the virus better than any state in the country, any nation in the globe. We reopened the economy, and we saved lives—because it was never a choice between one or the other. It was always right to do both.

He empowered New Yokers by showing how they made a difference, saying, “It is an unimaginable achievement. I’m so incredibly proud of what we all did together; as a community.”

“I ask myself and today I ask you: Why did it take a crisis to bring us together?” He questioned why on a day-to-day basis we don’t realize we are members of the same community and that we all benefit when we work together.  “Isn’t that what we really showed over the past 111 days? That the only way forward is if I protect you and you protect me,” Governor Cuomo stated.

He spoke of how united New York is from this experience and how the community is stronger: “It inspires me and energizes me. If we could accomplish together what we did here, this impossible task of beating back this deadly virus, then there is nothing we can’t do.” 

He spoke of using this unification to “build back better” —leading the nation on police reform, civil rights, social injustice while also re-energizing our economy and protecting our environment. He commented, “It shows us how capable we are when we are at our best. It shows us that we have great potential to do even more and we will.” 

In such a divided country today, we need more of this kind of leadership, hope and inspiration. 

Challenge of the Week

Promote unity in your community.  The strongest communities are formed by uniting people who share the same values, not the same opinions. This difference is important.

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter books

Don’t just try to unite people who share your same opinions. Listening to differences will help us grow, be better, and do better—collectively and as individuals

A shared value is much deeper than a shared opinion. Building a community filled with people of shared values drives positive, and much-needed, change. To be stronger together. As we approach the 4th of July, I challenge you to renew your commitment and begin helping unify our country

We have two ears and one mouth. Let’s use them proportionately and respectfully to champion values over opinions.

~ Kendall Webb, Executive Director

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