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Cuomo: Memorial Day weekend went better than expected

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It’s typically the kick-off for the summer, and a time when many in New York — and other colder states — can finally head back to the beach.

Yet, this wasn’t a typical Memorial Day, in a world where social distancing and face masks are the “new normal.” Still, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was quite happy to see people in the state return to beaches, but in a way that hopefully won’t spread the coronavirus known to cause COVID-19.

Most of the state is now in some mode of economic reopening, including many outdoor spaces like campgrounds and parks. The spring weather has prompted many to enjoy the outdoors, but especially in areas of higher density — especially around New York City — the risk of large crowds, a breeding ground to spread the deadly virus, remains.

But people shouldn’t believe that just because infection numbers are going down and the sun is coming out that the worst is over, Cuomo warned.

“When we went through this in the 1918 pandemic, you go back and you look at the places that opened in an uncontrolled way,” the governor said during a recent news conference, “you see that the virus came back, and came back with fury.”

One of the most famous instances of that during the flu pandemic of a century ago was the difference between Philadelphia and St. Louis. The City of Brotherly Love didn’t pay too much attention to social distancing and other safety measures, even holding a massive parade. St. Louis, on the other hand, put together policies designed to curb the spread of the virus.

Within weeks, Philadelphia’s hospitals were overrun with the sick and dying, while St. Louis continues its road to recovery.

It’s more than just the beaches and campgrounds opening. Cuomo also announced that many of New York’s professional sports teams are able to begin training camps. Live audiences at sporting events remains risky, so the return of baseball and hockey, among other sports, would have to come without fans cheering them on.

“It’s a return to normalcy, so we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible,” Cuomo said. “We will work with them to make sure that can happen.”

Staying strong and finding ways to persevere is about as New York as anyone can get, the governor said, citing the likes of a predecessor of his, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And then there’s Robert Moses, a controversial figure in New York history, but one who spearheaded the construction of Jones Beach on Long Island. The beauty of that site did not come naturally. Instead, it was a marsh that was transformed into a beach in only three years.

Cuomo also emphasized the importance of paying attention to facts and science rather than politics when it comes to following safety precautions.

“This is not a political ideology question,” the governor said. “This is a public health question.”

That means maintaining safe distances of six feet and wearing masks.

“Smart has worked,” Cuomo said. “We just have to stay smart.”

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