How Gov Cuomo's Missteps Allowed COVID-19 To Overwhelm The US

Earlier this week, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo attacked the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut over outbreaks that recently sent case numbers in those states to their highest levels in months. He then turned his attention to President Trump, his perpetual antagonist, and in an unusually scathing denunciation, Cuomo slammed Trump as a "super spreader" and claimed Trump was personally responsible for every death caused by COVID-19 in the state.

Cuomo has stepped up his public briefings again lately, as the number of COVID-19 cases is once again on the rise in his state, which reported more than 2,000 new cases yesterday for the first time in months. But the governor has also just published a new book detailing his experience as 'America's governor', stepping up to lead during the early days of the crisis, when his briefings were carried live on national cable news.

No other governor received such fawning treatment by the press. But in a new report, the Financial Times, a British newspaper respected for its impartial coverage of American politics, digs into the "mythology" surrounding Cuomo's reputation. The paper found that both Gov Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio repeatedly ignored warnings from experts, wasting six weeks (including the entire month of February) urging citizens to go about their lives, as the virus silently spread across the city.

When confronted with their initial response, both men have claimed that they were 'flying blind', forced to battle the virus without adequate testing resources thanks to the ineptitude of the Trump Administration. Other reports have detailed the bureaucratic incompetence at the CDC that seemed to almost deliberately delay the widespread availability of tests. But both men had been advised of the risks, and still they resisted closing schools and businesses - for fear it might hurt the city's economy - or take other precautions to limit travel into and out of the state.

The inadequate government response led to divisions between public hospitals and wealthy private hospitals, between the rich and poor, the suburbs/Manhattan vs. the Bronx and the outerboroughs. Oxiris Barbot, who quit early on after being sidelined by Mayor de Blasio, warned in early February that New Yorkers should stay calm because "this is not something that you're going to contract in the subway or on the bus." Even back then, the scientific community knew enough to call this statement into question.

But the reality is that scares over previous epidemics hitting New York had proven to be just that - scares.  And the mayor and governor were treating the disease like Ebola, preparing for isolated cases, not a full-scale outbreak.

Others claimed New York should have been heading into lockdown when the first National Guardsmen arrived in New Rochelle. But that's not what happened. Instead, public health professionals who warned that hospitals needed to start stocking up on PPE in February were ignored. A few weeks later, nurses in the Bronx were treating patients while swathed in garbage bags, while hospitals on the Upper East Side still had empty ICU beds and more than enough masks to go around.

Cuomo made a big show of securing a Navy Ship from President Trump, but at the end of its term, the ship sailed away, having hardly housed any patients. At the time, what the city needed were tests, something nobody in the country could get. Meanwhile, Cuomo's order forcing hospitals to send COVID-19 positive patients back to nursing homes led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

That's not to say mistakes at the federal level didn't play a role - they did. For more than a month, the CDC refused to allow world-class labs in the state to run tests independently of the CDC. This made impossible for NY to scale up testing, allowing the virus to infect tens of thousands of people before the city could confirm even a single case.

"We had our hands tied behind our back,” recalls Melissa DeRosa, Mr Cuomo’s closest aide, as federal authorities tested people arriving from Asia and Iran but kept flights open from Europe, where cases were rising. More than 1.7m people flew in from Europe in “the lost month” of February, she says, while “Covid-19 was silently ravaging the entire north-east”.

Every major decision, from closing schools, to shutting down NYC and, ultimately, the rest of the state, was preceded by petty squabbles between Albany and City Hall over who would announce the plan, and what language would be used, etc.

"The mayor and the governor were in a constant pissing contest. The people in the middle get urinated on," said Gustavo Rivera, a state senator and leader of the state's health committee, who was one of the key on-the-record voices in the FT story. "The notion that we should be celebrating when we still have more deaths than in most countries in the world is just insanity."

Another New York pol, Jumaane Williams, said "days were wasted" thanks to Cuomo's distaste for terms like "lockdown" and "shelter-in-place".

"Days were wasted because [the governor] was afraid of the term shelter-in-place," echoes Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate. "It cost people’s lives: 10 to 15 lives an hour."

“It is very hard to watch the governor selling books when tens of thousands of lives were lost.”

David Engelthaler, a genomic epidemiologist at Arizona’s Translational Genomics Research Institute, said that genetic research has shown that the strain that spread in NY was the European strain, which went on to infect most of the country, not the Chinese strain responsible for early outbreaks on the West Coast.

Instead of serving as a bulwark against a nationwide outbreak, New York became "Grand Central station" in the spread of the virus across the US, an outbreak that is now working its way across the Midwest.

Source: FT

Of course, when it comes to COVID-19, Gov Cuomo's "all talk" approach is mirrored by his younger brother, Chris Cuomo, who was recently issued a letter by the management from his building warning him that he could face a $500 fine if he's caught again violating rules surrounding wearing masks during public spaces in a building.

"You have been observed entering and exiting the building and riding the elevator without the required face coverings," reads part of the Aug. 6 letter.

“Even though staff members have asked you to comply with this requirement, you have refused to do so. This is a violation of the Executive Order, building policy, and places other residents and our staff at risk. There are no exceptions to this rule, and you are required to comply."

Tucker Carlson has more on that below: