And Mr. de Blasio? He was somewhere in the middle, like most of the media that is now keeping score. His painfully public three-day Hamlet act over closing schools ended with Mr. Cuomo announcing that they’d be closed just minutes before Mr. de Blasio’s planned announcement — both of them days behind some other school systems around the country. Ms. Breed had her city “shelter in place” March 16; Mr. de Blasio aired that idea March 17, to be immediately rebuked by Cuomo, who then put in a similar statewide order four days later. Today, Mr. Cuomo overrode the mayor to close playgrounds. The two have tiptoed around one another, and on Tuesday held news conferences at the same hospital ship, an hour apart.
Mr. de Blasio told me his hesitation to shut schools and, effectively, the city was focused on the city as he saw it. “The vast majority of New Yorkers are working-class people, are lower income folks, who have no option but to stand and fight,” he said. “They can’t go any place else, they don’t have an alternative to child care, they don’t have a nanny.”
And he blamed the media for overlooking those groups to focus on the more affluent classes. “Our discourse is inherently about a small subset of our people.”
The problem with his argument, of course, is that the poor get sick, too. People close to Mr. de Blasio say he erred in taking a reflexively ideological approach to a fast-moving health crisis. One former aide worried that the mayor filtered the pandemic through “a social justice lens’’ that does not work for this moment.
Mr. de Blasio rejects the criticism that he let his preoccupation with inequality overwhelm his more universal obligations. But he says the emerging story of the crisis will be about the old inequalities as much as about the new disease. The city has released largely useless data about where the coronavirus is hitting hardest. New data is nearly ready, he said, and when it’s released later this week, it will show that clearly.
“We’re going to be able to put out much more true data that will show this tracking with the health disparities that are historically known,” he said. “Coronavirus is equal opportunity, and we have to save and protect everyone — but it’s increasingly clear where we’re losing lots of people and how it connects back to historic disparities.”
Mr. de Blasio’s hair has cooled off as the briefings have gone on; he continues to drive his aides crazy by refusing to trust information, as The New York Times’ Jeffery C. Mays and Joseph Goldstein reported, until he has “processed it himself.” He’s scrambling like other executives to get supplies for the city; he was on the phone Monday, he said, with the chief executive of a Swedish ventilator company, pleading New York’s case. He’s now under fire from the right for releasing inmates from city jails.