At the outset, he encouraged New Yorkers to go about their lives normally. He decided far too late to close public schools and shift to remote learning.
New York implemented a shelter-in-place policy nearly a week later than some cities in California. That delay may have had to do with the mayor’s longstanding feud with Governor Andrew Cuomo, who initially rebuffed the idea of shutting down the state, only to pull the trigger five days after de Blasio suggested it.
De Blasio’s latest blunder is how he handled the enforcement of social distancing. In mid-April, the mayor encouraged New Yorkers to report on those who were not following distancing rules by snapping a photo and texting it to the city.
Officers issued summonses and even arrested some people for not following the guidelines. Then the videos surfaced.
In at least three separate viral moments caught on camera, police officers were seen aggressively arresting black New Yorkers. That starkly contrasted with photos of police handing out masks to mostly white New Yorkers crowding in parks.
The data backed up the images, as over 82 percent of people who received summonses for violating social distancing were black or Latino.
The mayor has since backtracked on that strategy. Heeding the advice of elected officials and advocates, de Blasio changed course and prioritized education and mask distribution. He will involve civilian “ambassadors,” including the clergy and community groups, to get the job done.
The NYPD will rightfully focus on breaking up large gatherings, which can lead to massive spread of the virus.
It’s better late than never for de Blasio, the latest in a string of missteps during the global pandemic.
While he’s in the unenviable position of making choices that have life-or-death consequences, New Yorkers should expect more from him, the governor and the president.