New York governor Andrew Cuomo sparked backlash Monday when he suggested using Memorial Day, a federal holiday for honoring fallen military-service members, to also honor COVID-19 essential workers.
“It’s Memorial Day, and we remember those who gave their lives on Memorial Day, gave their lives for this country or for freedom, because freedom isn’t free,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “I also think we should remember this past year on Memorial Day, remember the 42,000 New Yorkers who died. 42,000. Remember the 1,000 essential workers who died giving their life.
“It takes a special person to run into a fire to save someone,” he said. “It takes a special person, when every instinct in your body says that’s dangerous, don’t go there, run away, it takes a special person to say, no, I’m going in because I think I can help someone. The essential workers did that day after day after day after day.”
The governor announced that flags across the state would be flown at half-staff during Memorial Day weekend in memory of essential workers who died during the coronavirus pandemic. State landmarks will be illuminated red, white, and blue, he added.
Social-media users criticized a tweet by Cuomo announcing the action, arguing that the holiday should remain focused on members of the military who died in the line of duty as it has been since it was established as a federal holiday 40 years ago.
Cuomo is no stranger to criticism. The governor has recently been embroiled in a number of scandals, including investigations into his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and the alleged coverup that followed, as well as the accusations of sexual misconduct from at least nine women.
Cuomo has denied wrongdoing.
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