Emergency is over; Cuomo’s extra powers should be, too

Gov. Andrew Cuomo smiles June 15 as he announces that COVID-19 restrictions in New York state are lifted as 70% of adults in the state have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The governor made the announcement during a speech on the 64th floor of One World Trade Center in Manhattan. (Provided photo — governor's office)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent Tuesday, June 15 taking a COVID-19 victory lap. News that 70% of adult New Yorkers have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is a milestone for the state, but if the governor is celebrating the emergency’s end, we wonder why he still clings to his emergency authority?

We’ve seen only recently examples of why the governor’s executive authority needs to end. The governor’s edicts on travel restrictions, sports seasons in schools, vaccine eligibility, business restrictions and, most recently, the administration’s three-day flip-flop over mask wearing in schools do nothing but undermine the state’s efforts to convince unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

One of the reasons there was such celebration statewide as restrictions were lifted is because many New Yorkers look at the past 15 months and see inconsistent, often capricious rules and regulations, and are relieved to see those rules and the governor’s near-constant influence lifted.

What happens if the governor decides that counties with vaccination rates less than 70% — Essex and Franklin among them — must operate under pandemic restrictions because the counties don’t reach herd immunity? As long as the governor is operating under one of his existing executive orders, he could do so. Continued limits on schools are within the governor’s authority as well, and few rural New Yorkers want to go through another school year like the one we’re finishing. As the early June school masking confusion reminds everyone, the governor can still exercise tremendous influence over schools, health care and other areas even after taking his COVID victory lap.

It’s time for the governor’s emergency powers to come to an end.


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