In This Episode
- Covid cases continue to decline, though at a much slower rate than in January. That leveling off, plus the continued threat of variants has public health officials warning people to stay vigilant. Meanwhile, Italy goes back into lockdown.
- The Governor Cuomo saga continues with new reporting that his vaccine czar inappropriately called local officials to secure their support. This comes after a flood of Democratic lawmakers from New York called on Cuomo to resign last Friday, including Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
- And in headlines: London police face backlash for breaking up Sarah Everard vigil, FEMA at the border, and Avatar reclaims its place as the highest-grossing film ever.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Monday, March 15th, I’m Gideon Resnick.
Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, filling in for Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And this is What A Day where we really think we should have had a shot at the Best Spoken Word Album Grammy.
Erin Ryan: Hard to deny that we are both speaking words and doing a pretty good job.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, the Governor Cuomo saga continues to get worse, than some headlines.
Erin Ryan: But first, the latest:
[clip of Dr. Fauci] Even though the decline was steep, we absolutely need to avoid the urge to say “oh, everything is going great,” which it is going in the right direction, but once you declare victory—you know that metaphor that people say if you go in for a touchdown, don’t spike the ball on the five yard line, wait until you get into the end zone.
Erin Ryan: Well, you know, there are some circumstances where you might want to spike it at the five yard line, but that’s a clock management issue that I don’t need to debate with Anthony Fauci. That was Dr. Fauci on Meet the Press yesterday, with a familiar message for Americans: don’t stop while you’re ahead. We’ll know that the pandemic is over when we don’t hear his updates all the time. But in all seriousness, let’s talk about where things stand right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I would love for you at some point to debate him on clock management at an NFL game. [laughs]
Erin Ryan: I think that’s like the one thing that Dr. Fauci knows less about than me, is like football clock management—or the one thing that I know more about than him, maybe.
Gideon Resnick: We’ll have to see. Yeah, so on that front, right, it is a bit of a strange situation because he and others have been talking about this kind of plateauing in cases for a while in the US: we dropped like crazy from the worst part of our hellish winter and if you look at the seven day moving average now, it’s been about 50 to 60,000 a day. That’s kind of in the range of last year’s summer peak. So that in and of itself is down slightly from even a couple of weeks ago but it’s not on a steep trajectory we saw in January. And we still have over 1,500 Americans dying from COVID in recent days. Then at the same time, last Friday, we passed 100 million doses of the vaccine administered in the U.S., which had been a goal for Biden in his first 100 days, which we are not at yet. The states are going to need to keep scaling up in the next couple of months to reach some of those new May goals that Biden set out last week. So all that is to say, it is a weird moment where we and public health officials have to negotiate these overwhelmingly positive bits of news with continued caution.
Erin Ryan: Oh, man, I am not sure I trust my fellow countrymen to be good at doing that. OK, let’s talk about variants. We’re well into March, which is when the CDC said that the variant from the UK would become dominant in the US. Do we know if that’s actually happening yet?
Gideon Resnick: Kind of. So here’s the thing that’s weird, and like many weird things, it begins with Florida. Just over a week ago, there was reporting that the number of new cases that were there, that were the B117 strain was like 30% of all cases—that’s pretty high. And yet it wasn’t driving up new cases overall in the state or country wide, like we had seen with this strain in the UK where it just kind of exploded over the winter. And then by yesterday, the numbers seem to be closer to 50% in Florida and the story is still largely the same. This could all change, of course. And so once again, public health experts are in a wait-and-see mode. But it’s possible that some combination of climate for Florida, some immunity from prior cases and vaccinations is playing a role for now in keeping this from really exploding. The state is going to possibly get a further stress test with the only two words scarier than COVID variant. That is right: spring break.
Erin Ryan: Oh, my gosh. I just hope the people that go to Florida for spring break are going to do cool kids spring break, which is outside, in the sun, and not dumb kids’ spring break, which is inside, crowded together. Do cool kids spring break! Be outdoorsy for spring break. And while we’re in wait-and-see mode, the thing that seems to be making Fauci and others the most nervous is what’s going on in Europe.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. So when he was talking about restrictions and variants, he drew a direct comparison to Italy. That’s because, according to The New York Times, they have seen something like a 15% increase in cases over the past week, driven in part by the B117 variant, the UK one. As of today, the government as a result, is imposing a lockdown for about 75% of the population. I, for one, do not like hearing about scary things happening in Italy and wondering if it could be next here. I don’t want to offer too controversial a take, but that seems a little bit too familiar for me, especially in March no less. But one big, big difference, though, between last March and this March is that something like less than 3% of their population has been fully vaccinated, versus in the US, we’re at about 11% fully vaccinated and 21% with at least one shot. So maybe we won’t see a repeat here.
Erin Ryan: Oh, my gosh. The worst thing in the world Gideon would be if 2021 is the Home Alone 2 of 2020, where it’s just the same movie—all the same beats, slightly worse because I’ve already seen it before, no surprises. I just, I wouldn’t—I would, I would walk into the sea. I wouldn’t make it. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. The second I see Tim Curry at any point this year, I know it’s trouble. That’s how I’ll know.
Erin Ryan: We just have to edit out any and all Donald Trump cameos, preemptively. Just not have him in it at all.
Gideon Resnick: Just to be safe. Uh, that’s what public health experts are saying. Yeah. So the vaccine rollout has been troubled in a number of ways across the EU, and you can see a rise in cases happening at the same time. There was a report in the AP suggesting another lockdown could be on the way for Paris, and cases in Eastern Europe have been on the climb, too. And then outside of Europe, another major, major trouble spot is Brazil, where an estimated 5% of people have been vaccinated and they are reaching new peaks. A lot of it is driven by a variant circulating within the country that has been shown to reinfect many who previously had COVID. It is a pretty scary situation. So there’s a reason why scientists call them, quote unquote “variants of concern” but for now, the major difference between places like the UK and US seeing the steadier decline since the beginning of this year, is the way more effective vaccine rollouts. We’ll stay on top of all of this. But in other news, Erin, let’s talk about a particular American politician we’ve been following.
Erin Ryan: Yaaaaay. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s slow motion, or should I say Cuomotion—
Gideon Resnick: Yes you should.
Erin Ryan: OK, I will—political implosion has really ramped up in the past few days, as more allegations of misconduct have led to more prominent Democrats calling for his resignation.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. And so what is the actual latest news then on the accusations themselves?
Erin Ryan: We now have had six women come forward. The most recent person to accuse Governor Cuomo of sexual misconduct alleged that the governor reached under her shirt and groped her in the governor’s mansion late last year. Gross. Cuomo’s other accusers include current and former members of his staff. All this is on top of other ways that Cuomo has messed up, including a scandal over undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. And things are starting to compound. There was a report yesterday that Cuomo’s Vaccine Czar called up county officials across the state to gauge their loyalty to Cuomo—that’s some pretty nice antibodies, would be a shame if something happened to ’em—and that those conversations happened in proximity to other conversations about vaccine distribution. Cuomo’s Vaccine Czar, said he did make the calls, but that they weren’t connected in any way to vaccines. Sure. Giant wink.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I’ve been convinced, I have no further questions at this time myself. It all checks out. Meanwhile, politicians like Democrat AOC and Republican Elise Stefanik have been calling on Cuomo to take these accusations seriously for weeks now. But last Friday, it seemed to reach a new level.
Erin Ryan: Yeah, apart from the Cortez-Stefanik caucus—their only issue: disliking Andrew Cuomo—16 of the 19 Democrats serving in the state assembly have called for Cuomo to quit. And on Friday, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called for Cuomo to step down. And that was on top of a new wave of Congress members calling for the same. In total, 18 of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation have now called on Cuomo to resign. Outside of New York, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an interview on ABC’s This Week, where she said, quote “Cuomo should look inside his heart—he loves New York—to see if he can govern effectively.” So I’m not friends with Nancy Pelosi, but as a Midwestern native, I’m fluent in passive aggression. And honestly, if any woman over 50 that I knew said those words, I’d interpret it to mean: I shouldn’t have to answer any questions about this guy at all, we don’t hang out, we’re not friends, this is annoying, I’m annoyed, Andrew Cuomo consider stepping down, you piece of shit. Again, that’s just my translation, but that’s kind of how I read it.
Gideon Resnick: I appreciate it and I agree with it. I think that, yeah, “you should look inside your heart” does not have good connotations attached to it. It means that you’re in massive trouble.
Erin Ryan: No. Somebody wearing lipstick from the South or the Midwest, or I guess even the West Coast, telling you anything to do with your own heart—that’s bad for you. Bless your heart. Look in your heart. That’s bad for you.
Gideon Resnick: I want none of it. Talk about any other part of my body and I’ll feel more safe. So are Cuomo’s allies at this point and what are they saying?
Erin Ryan: Besides the Vaccine Czar, what allies? As Cuomo’s problems have grown, one thing has become clear: Cuomo has been a dick for so long that he barely has any friends left in Albany. He’s more image obsessed than he is results obsessed, and that’s made many key people mad. I actually read a New York Times article today where several New York Democrats are quoted by name talking smack about Cuomo. Now, if that doesn’t mean the man is out of credibility, I don’t know what does.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is definitely the biggest set of crises overlapping, that he’s ever faced. I don’t think that he is going to end up stepping down—and will laugh at myself if and when something does occur like that—but what is your read on the situation?
Erin Ryan: Well, you’re closer to the action than I am Gideon, but I think Cuomo believes that he’ll be able to ride this one out, for many reasons, namely because other people have done it a lot in the very recent past. Like, for example, Donald Trump rode out like five very bad crimes. Cuomo has denied most of the allegations and minimized others, brushing aside the most minor of them by insinuating that creeping out women who are as young as his daughters, is just how he likes to joke. OK. He did do one press conference where he pretended to be sad and on Friday, he blamed all this on cancel culture. And to that I say: thumbs down and fart sound.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, I guess his official stated position had been, wait for the investigations to happen, but what does Cuomo think cancel culture actually means?
Erin Ryan: I think it simply means, when I personally may face consequences. Like Gideon, have you ever noticed that there’s a pretty high correlation between people who are getting pretty mad about cancel culture and people who have said or done things in the past that could make a lot of people mad?
Gideon Resnick: Not until this moment. No. I’m just noticing it now.
Erin Ryan: It is a quite high correlation. People who have done things to make people mad, and people scared of the anger of people. So I also sometimes wonder what would happen if powerful men took all the time and energy that they devote to acting creepy around women—instead of doing that, they did literally anything else. Like learned how to build model ships. I feel like that’s a dying art and I would love to see more of it. Maybe they could study a foreign language—that’s good for your brain, keep your brain young. I think it would also be great if these guys would do their goddamn jobs. The main thing they’re supposed to be doing. Like is it the powerful men have too much free time? Do we need to invent new things for them to do so that they have less time left over to bother us? Like: hey, Governor, there’s no hitting on anybody until you fix all the problems. You know, otherwise, if you can’t follow that rule, you should step aside and make room for somebody who will actually take the job seriously. So we’ll keep tracking this, but that’s the latest.
Gideon Resnick: It is Monday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check we are talking about the black market password exchange. Netflix has begun testing a feature that would make users verify they actually live with the account holder, prodding those who do not toward buying their own subscriptions. These titans of the streaming industry are kicking us out with all the subtlety of parents sending their kids Zillow listings after they’ve been in the basement for too long. In this economy, this Emily in Paris isn’t going to watch itself, is what I say to Netflix. So I ask you, Erin, how do you feel about Netflix coming for the people’s passwords? Are you a password sharer yourself?
Erin Ryan: OK, I, I think I might be the only person who feels like this, but I am a very, like, lawful good person when it comes to passwords and password sharing. Like, I don’t do it. I have a subscription to everything that I watch in my house and I almost get—uh, I do get—I get annoyed when my husband borrows his parent’s password for things.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Erin Ryan: Dude, you’re 42. No password—I feel like password sharing should be legal like how Obamacare covers health insurance. Like you can be on your parent’s health insurance until you’re 26. But after 26, I think you’ve got to get your own subscription. On the other hand, I think there should be a COVID dispensation for this, because it’s been a hard year, we should let people maybe share passwords, give them a grace period. Maybe it should have been part of the Biden COVID relief package. Give ’em a grace period. But after that, I think they’re a company that can crack down if they want.
Gideon Resnick: That is quite a take. To extend your analogy there, I guess I would be more of a Medicare-for-all-type person in this situation. In that, if you got a password, share a password. That’s my egalitarian and socialist view. And to end to crack down on it, I think—that’s the bigger offense, right? If you want to pay for all of these subscriptions, by all means, but like to actively be like: hey, quit doing this. It’s just why? You’re, you’re fine. You’re doing OK as a company. I think. I haven’t looked at their books, but I think Netflix is probably doing OK as a company. And just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe. Share your passwords or don’t. I’m not going to tell you what to do with your lives and your streaming accounts, but we’ll be back after some ad.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Erin Ryan: Police in London are being widely criticized for how they responded to a peaceful mass vigil over the weekend. Hundreds of people on Saturday came together in a park in London to pay tribute to 33-year old Sarah Everard, who was abducted and killed while walking home alone at night. Her death made national headlines and sparked discussions about public safety for women. The suspect, London police officer Wayne Cousins, was charged last Friday. Just an hour into the vigil, officers began making arrests by handcuffing, and in some cases tackling women, onto the ground. The city’s police commissioner defended the officers, claiming that the attendees were violating COVID protocols. Lawmakers and activists are calling the officers’ actions disproportionately harsh. And London Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday ordered a full independent investigation into the police response.
Gideon Resnick: The Biden administration deployed FEMA, the agency typically responsible for handling natural disasters, to help manage the surge of unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The agency will help with moving children from border facilities into the homes of family members or sponsors within 72 hours. They’ll be participating in a government-wide effort over the next three months to shelter and find homes for unaccompanied minors at the border. Right now, a record number of over 9,400 migrant children are being held in detention centers that are way over capacity, and for way longer than the typical three-day period. Immigration lawyers have said that the facilities are becoming more dangerously overcrowded every day. President Biden ended a policy under Trump that expelled children crossing the border alone, but expulsions of families and single adults are still happening.
Erin Ryan: It was a pretty good weekend for everybody’s favorite cellist. And no, we’re not talking about your nephew Bradley, because let’s be honest, he’s cute but he’s not that good. On Saturday, renowned musician Yo-Yo Ma put on an impromptu concert during his 15-minute observation period following his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The 65-year old cellist performed Ave Maria and Bach’s Prelude in G Major for the people at the Pittsfield, Massachusetts vaccination site. If everybody is going to start doing the thing they’re known for after they get vaccinated, let’s just say I do not want to be there when the Blue Man Group gets their second dose. Those guys are messy and I do not want to participate as an audience member. No audience participation.
Gideon Resnick: No, no, no, no. It also be loud, too. And it’s like neon, it’s like neon pai—yeah.
Erin Ryan: I would think I was having a bad reaction to the vaccine.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Am I hallucinating in this observation room? Yeah, because I see— yeah, terrible. But speaking of blue people: Na’vi Nation, rise up. I’ve been waiting to say that for my entire life. That exact phrase. After a theatrical re-release in China this weekend, the 2009 3D sci-fi adventure Avatar has once again reclaimed its place as the highest grossing film internationally of all time, narrowly edging out Avengers End Game. That’s pretty good for a movie that is just Pocahontas in space. This highest grossing crown title basically makes Avatar the Bible of movies. I don’t make the rules, but that’s what it is. Here’s to a future where your grandma gets you a copy of Avatar every year for Christmas and you can always find an Avatar DVD in your hotel room, bedside table, and people hold up their favorite Avatar quotes on signs at baseball games.
Erin Ryan: Wow. I want to teen study Avatar. You know, teen study, like for—there’s Bibles for teens and they’ll like put little—it’s a whole thing. It’s, it’s pretty funny.
Gideon Resnick: Went over my head. Jewish. That’s going to be my claim for not, not understanding—
Erin Ryan: I’ll give you one for your birthday this year. It’s going to be real fun for you.
Gideon Resnick: I hope that you do. But those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That’s all for today, if you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, score some unobtainium, and tell your friends listen.
Erin Ryan: And if you were into reading, and not just totally bound screeds against cancel culture like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Erin Ryan.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And give us that Grammy!
Gideon Resnick: It’s about time. It’s about time. I, I’ve been snubbed before, and I, I shan’t be snubbed again . . . for Pop Folk album.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our system producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.