Cuomo: It's not the economy or public health, it's both

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoDocuments show CNN's Cuomo asking top aide: 'Please let me help' defend brother Andrew Rep. Suozzi to run for New York governor Will media portrayals of Rittenhouse lead to another day in court? MORE (D) said Tuesday government officials need to focus on a strategy to improve both public health and the economy simultaneously in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“There's a smarter approach to this, we don’t have to choose between the two. We can develop a more defined public health strategy that is also an economic strategy,” Cuomo said Tuesday at his daily press briefing. 

The governor of the state hardest hit by the virus rejected the idea that officials are placed in an either-or scenario, arguing that there is a way to move the economy forward without placing the public at greater risk. 

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“My mother is not expendable, your mother is not expendable and our brothers and sisters are not expendable, and we’re not going to accept the premise that human life is disposable, and we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life. The first order of business is to save lives, period. Whatever it costs,” Cuomo said. 

“You can have an economic startup strategy consistent with the public health strategy. It's smart, it’s complicated, it’s sophisticated, but that's what government is supposed to do … you can do both but not in a clumsy ham-handed way,” he added.

Cuomo said the initial strategy to close down all nonessential businesses was not the “most refined” but, with the knowledge of the dangers of the outbreak at the time, the New York state government needed to act. 

Moving forward, he said, a more refined approach can be implemented including possibly allowing younger workers or people who have recovered from the virus return to work. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE similarly had signaled business openings across the U.S. to help the economy. 

The president said Monday his administration would work to allow local economies to “cautiously resume” activities at an appropriate time. He said businesses may not be able to open in a week, at the end of the 15-day window for the current guidelines, but said it would be “soon.” 

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“I understand what the president is saying. This is unsustainable,” Cuomo said, referring to mass business closures.

“But if you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy then it’s no contest, no American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life because no American is going to say how much a life is worth.”

Although Cuomo acknowledged the economic challenges, he said the priority at the moment for New York is the peak number of cases set to break in around 14 days. 

He again urged the president to invoke the Defense Production Act and called for the federal government to release its stockpile of 20,000 ventilators to New York. 

“If we don't have the ventilators in 14 days it does us no good,” Cuomo said.