New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was the special guest Tuesday during the Connecticut Democratic Party’s Winter Gala held via Zoom.
Cuomo told the virtual gathering of Democrats, “If you want to be in a fox hole with somebody you want to be in a fox hole with Ned Lamont. And that’s how I felt as governor of New York,” in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo and Lamont talked about fighting COVID-19 like they were fighting a war.
“We had, together as a region, the lowest infection rate in the country for close to six months,” Lamont said. “That said, now things are ticking up again and we’re going back to war and Andrew—I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have side-by-side with than Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York. We’re going to win it this time. With the vaccine we have a little more fire power to make sure we win it permanently.”
Cuomo said there’s not a lot of people “you can talk to when you’re in these situations.” He said he appreciated Lamont’s counsel during the pandemic.
“Ned has always been there for me on a personal level,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo, who spent time with Lamont on a fishing trip to Lake Ontario in August 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, said Lamont caught the first fish and they were ready to come back to the dock but were told they had to wait to catch another fish because it would be bad for tourism if two people went out and only caught one fish.
Lamont, who only pretended to like fishing to get a meeting with Cuomo, said the unspoken fish quota gave him more time with Cuomo.
“It was the best fishing trip I’ve ever had,” Lamont said. “That relationship was so important for me, for the state of Connecticut, for our region I believe because four or five months later we got hit and it wasn’t a cyberattack it was an attack of COVID.”
Cuomo said it was “illustrative” of Lamont’s gracious nature to agree to stay longer on the boat.
Cuomo, whose father was governor from 1983 to 1994, said the relationship between Connecticut and New York never existed before. The two governors have stayed in touch since that fishing trip and both have embraced a regional approach to fighting COVID-19.
“If we’re going to make a real difference in Connecticut, progress doesn’t stop at our borders,” Lamont said. “If you want to do something on transportation, if you want to do something to prevent against cyberattacks, if you want to do things to preserve Long Island Sound—I gotta work with my neighbors and that started with New York.”
Connecticut has followed New York’s lead on reopening, especially when it came to restaurants. That’s why restaurants are worried Lamont will follow New York again.
Cuomo warned that New York would move to restrict indoor dining in areas where hospitalization rates continue to increase.
On Monday, Lamont called indoor dining a “real risk,” but he seemed to be waiting for other states in the region to take the first step toward curtailing them further. For the moment, the indoor dining capacity at Connecticut restaurants remains capped at 50%.
“Gov. Cuomo really led. His fireside chats were a command performance for all of us,” Lamont said describing Cuomo’s press briefings which attracted millions of viewers.
Cuomo has also written a book, “American Crisis,” in which he talks about working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yes, I was afraid. I got up every morning afraid. I looked at those numbers, I was afraid,” Cuomo said. “I called up Ned and I said to Ned, ‘I’m afraid.’”
Although he felt fear like anyone else, Cuomo said he had to rise above it and not govern by it.
“You can’t allow the fear to govern you,” Cuomo said. “Appreciate it, process it, hear it because it’s probably giving you a good insight, but then you have to rise above it. When you act through emotion you are lost in a situation.”
Cuomo said people have really had to appreciate government because what they were asking the public to do was “beyond the pale of any government request.”
“Stay home. Close your business. Don’t go to school. Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart from each other. When has government ever said that to anyone?” Cuomo said. “Think about that. Never. Not even in world wars were you that prescriptive of personal behavior.”
He said the key was communicating to people with believable information because there was no way state government alone could enforce what needed to happen to keep infection rates down.
“You’re going to really see government as an art form once again,” Cuomo said. “Which is what it is. It’s one of the highest art forms when done well.”