ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday displayed hundreds of donated masks sent to his office from across the country amid New York having the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation.
But the mural shown during his daily briefings at the state Capitol quickly drew a rebuke on social media for being displayed rather than donated to those who may need them. Others said they liked the work.
Cuomo called the mural "a self portrait of America. You know what that spells? It spells love."
The unveiling came as the Democratic governor continued to rail against Republicans in Congress for their refusal to provide aid to states to pay for programs and services as they face unprecedented budget gaps.
"We received thousands of masks from all across America, unsolicited, in the mail, homemade, creative, personal with beautiful notes from all across the country," Cuomo said.
He said the notes and the masks were "just people’s way of saying we care and we want to help."
"This is what this country is about, and this is what Americans are about. A little bit more of this, and a little bit less of the ugliness and the partisanship and this country will be a better place," he continued.
Some, however, felt the masks, which appeared to be put up with thumbtacks, should have been better used as actual protective gear for those who need them.
"I don't think they intended for you to turn them into a mural...," wrote writer Thor Benson on Twitter.
The mural will not take away from the ability to provide masks to those who need them, said Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor. And the ones on the murals will be distributed.
"These are handmade cloth face coverings that Americans sent to @NYGovCuomo," Azzopardi said on Twitter.
"We have more than 7 million face-coverings from (Hanes) & others that we have been distributing to county OEMs to distribute to vulnerable populations. We plan to find good homes 4 these as well"
Others on social media applauded the mural.
"The “ Mask Quilt “ revealed today by @NYGovCuomo is beautiful," artist Carole McCoy wrote on Twitter.
"Masks created by Americans from every state, to show their support, united to beat #COVID19. It reminds me of the AIDS Quilt. Great presentation. Great hearts, with art USA. #CuomoBriefing"
Cuomo has regularly highlighted in his daily briefings the goodwill of people around the nation to New York, which exceeded 18,000 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday.
Last week, Cuomo explained how a Kansas farmer donated one of his five N95 masks to New York, saving the rest only for his family.
And on Wednesday, he noted how 95,000 retired medical professionals offered to volunteer to help New York in its hospitals.
"Politicians, try to be half as good as the American people," Cuomo said as he showed the mural.
Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany