Daily coronavirus task force briefing
Daily coronavirus task force briefing

‘How much is a human life worth?’

The coronavirus pandemic has left the world pondering many key questions.

One of the top among them has been posed by New York governor Andrew Cuomo: "how much is a human life worth?"

In his daily press briefing on Tuesday local time, Mr Cuomo said the national debate over when to re-open outbreak-ravaged economies ultimately boils down to the value placed on people's lives.

"That's the real discussion that no one is admitting openly or freely," he added.

"But we should."

His comments came as the daily New York State coronavirus death toll remained steady at 230.

There have been more than 19,000 deaths in New York since the beginning of the outbreak and at least 68,922 nationwide. More than 1.18 million Americans have been infected with the disease.

Pointing to a shocking new model that projects a doubling of the US death toll by June 1, Mr Cuomo said the country needs to have an urgent conversation about the human costs of rushing to reopen states during the still-raging pandemic.



As other states begin lifting restrictions, Mr Cuomo has opted for a slower approach that will allow parts of the state to phase in economic activity later this month if they meet and maintain a series of benchmarks.

"The faster we re-open, the lower the economic cost - but the faster we ope, the higher the human cost, because the more lives lost," he said.

"That, my friends, is the decision we are really making."

"The question comes back to: 'How much is a human life worth?'"

Mr Cuomo said he was aware of - and empathetic towards - the economic impact of business closures but conceded the costs of reopening too soon would be just as high - if not, more so.

He cited the influential model created by scientists at the University of Washington that relaxing social-distancing rules - as most of the states are now carrying out - will lead directly to much higher infection and death rates.

"That's a very nice way of saying, when you accelerate the reopening … the more people get infected, the more people die," he said.

The grim new model, which US President Donald Trump and his task force cited when it predicted a lower death toll, predicts an explosion of new cases by the end of May to about 200,000 a day from about 25,000 today. Death rates will go up to about 3,000 a day, pushing the toll past 100,000 before summer officially starts, the data shows.

The New York Governor has repeatedly called for a "modulated" gradual reopening, which can be reversed if required, even if it means re-shutting down the economy and causing more economic pain.

During his Tuesday briefing, Mr Cuomo took issue with the president's use of the word "bailout" - which Mr Trump recently used to describe requested funding for various states, including New York - saying it does not characterise what states are asking for from the federal government.

"Because of the coronavirus, we need financial help in restarting the economy, and that's what we're asking for from the federal government," he said.

"How do you call that a bailout? Which is such a loaded word. Such a rhetorical, hyperbolic word."

Mr Cuomo explained that Democratic states have given the federal government billions more dollars than they have received "for years".

"This is not any mismanagement by the states," he said.

"If anything, the mismanagement has been on behalf of the federal government, and that's where the mismanagement has gone back decades.

"What the government does today will literally determine how many people live and how many die - and that's not hyperbolic, and that's not overly dramatic, that is just a fact.

"That federal government has to be able to pass legislation, to pass legislation it has to be on a bipartisan basis."

Originally published as 'How much is a human life worth?'