‘He’s keeping us safe.’

So goes the mantra of the COVID-19 pandemic. In places like New York and California, shutdowns were excessive, harsh and mostly redundant. But what the leadership in those states offered was the perception of safety. And people bought it.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom was caught dining out at his state’s top restaurant with a large group of lobbyists in November. He needed to show he meant business in fighting the virus, even as he himself engaged in pleasure. So he closed all dining, indoor and outdoor. California had to fight. California had to win. California has a higher seven-day case rate now than it did then, and much fewer ICU beds available, yet the stay-at-home order is lifted and restaurants can open for outdoor dining once again. No one dare ask the naked emperor: why now? 

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers every message decisively. Even if it’s completely at odds with the message he delivered, also decisively, the previous week. I’ve covered his backflips in these pages before. This week he had the gall to go on TV and say ‘I said here in New York months ago that all the data says the schools are safer than the surrounding community. Keep the schools open, and keep the children in the school. I’m glad the CDC confirmed that.’

Months ago, you say? Actually, in October when New York City closed schools because of some arbitrary positive case rate that relied on healthy people getting regular COVID tests, Gov. Cuomo said ‘The schools are important because you will very often see the schools be a place of transmission.’ Those of us who, ahem, saw all the data that said the schools are safer than the surrounding community were aghast. But Cuomo was ‘keeping us safe’.

In December, when Cuomo closed indoor dining in restaurants, but only in New York City which had the second lowest case rate of any region in the state, he noted that only 1.4 percent of COVID spread was tied to indoor dining. But you can’t be a pretend authoritarian if you don’t make ridiculous decisions to ‘keep us safe’.

And then there’s the new President. In August, then-candidate Biden called for national mask mandates. In October, he admitted mandating a mask was not possible. Then a few days ago President Biden tweeted ‘I gave you my word as a Biden — and I kept that word.’ In his list of things he’d kept his word about was ‘Masks. Mandated.’ Does giving your word ‘as a Biden’ means saying you’ll do something, then saying it can’t be done, then not doing it but saying you have? Where is this mandate? It applies solely to federal buildings, which most Americans don’t frequent. But hey, he’s keeping us safe.