New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made a last-minute change to his Thanksgiving plans after a backlash of criticism for planning on having his family travel to celebrate with him during the pandemic.
Cuomo reversed course on Monday just hours after he gave a radio interview in which he told WAMC that he would be celebrating Thanksgiving with his mother, Matilda, 89, and two of his three daughters, Cara and Michaela, who would be traveling to the governor's mansion in Albany.
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"The story is my mom is gonna come up and two of my girls is the current plan, but the plans change," he told WAMC. "I have a lot of work to do between now and Thanksgiving."
Cuomo's comments drew criticism from Republican officials in the state, as he has pleaded with people to not travel for Thanksgiving and limit gatherings to the people they live with.
"Do as I say, not as I do," tweeted Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who chided Cuomo for his "hypocrisy" and "arrogance."
Cuomo's office then released a statement following the criticism saying he would not be having Thanksgiving with his mother and daughters.
"As the Governor said, he had been discussing see his mother with two of his daughters for a four-person Thanksgiving in accordance with all the state-issued guidance, but as he also said the plans were still changing and given the current circumstances with COVID, he will have to work through Thanksgiving and will not be seeing them," a spokesman said. "Don't tell his mom - she doesn't know yet."
While Cuomo's initially planned gathering would've followed health experts' recommendation of a small group of people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending not to travel for Thanksgiving due to the "exponential growth" of COVID-19 cases across the country. Matilda Cuomo's age also puts her in a high-risk category for serious complications from COVID-19.
In the same radio interview, Cuomo noted that the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in New York has skyrocketed 122% in the past three weeks and could surge to 10,000 people in a matter of three or four weeks if people do not precautions over the holiday. New York has had more COVID deaths than any other state in the country.
"You're also fighting human nature," he said. "We're social beings. We like to be with people. It's a frightening period."
He added that people should be "thankful for the seniors who sacrificed so much, didn't get to see anyone," moments after he said his elderly mother would travel to see him.
Cuomo also pleaded with New Yorkers on Twitter to stay home for Thanksgiving by noting that his other daughter, Mariah, would not be coming home from Chicago for the holiday.
"My daughter isn't coming to Thanksgiving," he tweeted Monday. "She is out of state and it’s safer not to travel. It's hard. But I can’t think of a better gesture of love than to say, I'm making the tough choice to keep you & our family safe. We may be physically apart but we’re spiritually together."
TODAY's Dylan Dreyer shared last week how she faced a similar difficult decision about family coming to visit on Thanksgiving and made the choice to tell her father not to make the trip.
"It was a tough decision," she said. "I thought about it for a couple of days, and I said 'Dad, I'm sorry to have this conversation with you, but you're uninvited for Thanksgiving,' because I didn't want him to feel like he's now stuck coming because he didn't want to break my heart, so I just had to do it."