For months we’ve been told by CDC, the state Department of Health and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that we need to think about how our decisions affect the health and safety of others. That it’s insensitive and reckless to go out in groups because of how it would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, overwhelm the health care system and kill our fellow New Yorkers.
We were told we could not observe Memorial Day the way we want, pray in houses of worship as we like, shop or visit family. Thousands of New Yorkers have had to say good-bye to their loved ones without a proper wake or funeral.
New Yorkers dutifully complied, even at the expense of heavy economic and emotional pain.
Remember when Cuomo blasted a Long Island rally that attracted scores of protesters, arguing that everyone has a right to express their opinion — but not by violating rules that protect society as a whole?
“You want to jeopardize your health? God bless you,” Cuomo said. “You have no right to jeopardize my health . . . and my children’s health and your children’s health.”
What changed? I fully support a person’s First Amendment rights, including a person’s right to peacefully assemble. Our constitutional freedoms are the first line of defense against a tyrannical government. That has not changed, and we should all be grateful for those rights every day we wake up.
What changed is the response from attention-seeking politicians who crave the spotlight.
In the blink of an eye, they’ve gone from chastising peaceful protesters and using law enforcement to enforce strict social-distancing guidelines to encouraging mass gatherings and even posing for pictures with protesters in large groups (sometimes without even a mask).
Here is a message to elected officials and public-health experts: Either open everything up or be consistent and practice what you preach.
Many of the same officials who lobbied to close all state parks, close trail heads, close businesses and shut down vast portions of our state’s economy are now throwing away all those sacrifices they requested from us. Some demonstrations have done a better job attempting to adhere to social distancing, but many simply threw Matilda’s Law right in the trash without objection from elected leaders.
How many thousands of nursing-home residents died right here in New York because of the DOH’s misguided order mandating these facilities to take COVID-19 patients? Would protests against that order have been welcomed at that time?
Suicide takes the lives of 22 military veterans each and every day. Does that meet their standard? Politicians should not get to choose whose cause is more righteous and worthy.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m infuriated by what I saw on that video, and our nation has come together in unison to condemn the brutal act of hate against George Floyd.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Based on what we’ve seen and know at this time, I believe it was murder, and I fully expect the perpetrator of Floyd’s death will be brought to justice.”
We need to do more to respect, listen and appreciate one another as human beings, regardless of what may make us different as individuals. Every law enforcement officer I’ve spoken with is equally disgusted and agrees. Still, there are other, safer and more responsible, ways to voice our anger about the death of George Floyd.
I have not personally attended any mass gatherings because I choose not to risk exposing or spreading the virus by attending. Mask or no mask, if you’re in close proximity yelling, hugging and posing for photos in large groups of 100 or more, health professionals have made it crystal clear that it’s not safe nor responsible.
It goes against everything we’ve been told and everything public officials have been preaching. Then again, if that’s not true, then what the heck are we waiting for? Open up New York!
Kevin Byrne (R) is the ranking member of the Assembly Health Committee and represents New York’s 94th Assembly District.
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