Jimmy Fallon marked The Tonight Show’s return to its studio in Rockefeller Center for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown by speaking with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about how the city recovered from being the epicenter of the pandemic.
While conditions in New York have improved enough for Fallon and some of his crew to return to their studio, most social distancing measures are still in place and, as such, the interview with Cuomo was conducted over video chat. “We went through hell and back, as you know in New York,” Cuomo said. “We went from having the worst infection rate in the country — we now have the best infection rate. So we really turned the corner, New Yorkers stepped up. They really did the right thing: They did the social distancing; they stayed at home and we tamed the beast here in New York.”
Elsewhere, Cuomo spoke about his famous COVID-19 briefings during the height of the pandemic in New York, which many turned to for information (and even a source of comfort) in lieu of anything similar from President Donald Trump or the federal government. With conditions improving, Cuomo has since cut down on the number of briefings, telling Fallon he’s “been sleeping a lot” with the extra time. But he explained why he felt the briefings were so necessary back at the height of the pandemic.
“That was a horrendous period and I wanted to do it every day just because I wanted to be there with people every day,” he said. “This was emotional more than anything else. It was frightening, it was isolating. People didn’t know what was going on so I just wanted to say to the people of the state, ‘Look, I’m going to be there every morning. You want to know where we are? You want to know the update? I’m going to be there. And if you don’t want to know, that’s fine too, but if you have any questions I’m going to be there.’”
Cuomo oversaw one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world. While he has been praised for his handling of the response, there have been numerous reports suggesting he and other officials ignored early warning signs and waited too long to enact social distancing and lockdown measures that could have drastically altered the state’s astronomical death toll. As of the week of July 13th, 32,075 people have died from COVID-19 in New York, 22,795 of whom were in New York City.