Andrew Cuomo’s atrocious response to the coronavirus pandemic

In panning President Trump’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus, Democrats and the mainstream media stress the fact that the U.S. has reported many more deaths from the virus than any other country (in absolute numbers, not per capita). Yet, Gov. Cuomo receives nearly universal praise from the same precincts even though New York state leads America by a wide margin in deaths from the virus (both in absolute numbers and per capita.) New York accounts for around 30 percent of all U.S. coronavirus deaths.

I’m not inclined to blame any leader of a country or a state based solely on numbers. But Cuomo’s response to the virus has been deeply flawed from the start. I tried to demonstrate this here.

The most egregious aspect of Cuomo’s performance has received some attention — his order that nursing homes and rehabilitation centers admit and readmit patients sick with the coronavirus and that they be prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. It’s likely that this piece of idiocy caused the death of thousands of elderly New Yorkers who, under a competent governor, would have been spared.

But there’s plenty more to criticize in Cuomo’s response. To get a full sense of this, I recommend an expose by Pro Publica, which contrasts Cuomo’s actions to those of Gov. Newsom in California. It covers some of the same territory I did in my post, including the fact that Cuomo was clueless about this virus even as late as the beginning of March, but goes considerably deeper.

I’ll provide a few excerpts. There is this:

New York’s pandemic preparedness and response plan, first created in 2006 and running to hundreds of pages, predicted the state’s health care system would be overwhelmed in such a situation, and it highlighted two vital necessities: a robust and up-to-date state stockpile of emergency equipment and protective gear, and a mechanism for quickly expanding the number of hospital beds available.

Despite repeated requests, New York state health officials would not say what was in the state’s stockpile at the start of 2020, but it clearly wasn’t adequate. Cuomo publicly lamented the lack of such resources almost from the start of the crisis. One senior health executive said he recalled Cuomo being frustrated early on by the state’s stockpile, asking: “What’s in it? Is it expired?”

As for expanding hospital capacity, it was not until March 16 that Cuomo designated a task force to engineer greater numbers of beds, demanding a 50% increase in capacity in 24 hours. . . .

It took another two weeks before Cuomo announced he had created a “command center” that would get a handle on emergency supplies and available beds at hospitals across the state so that such resources could be directed at places of need. It had been a month since the state’s first case.

(Emphasis added)

And this:

While New York’s formal pandemic response plan underscores the need for seamless communication between state and local officials, the state Health Department broke off routine sharing of information and strategy with its city counterpart in February, just as the size of the menace was becoming clearer, according to both a city official and a city employee. “Radio silence,” said the city official. To this day, the city employee said, the city can’t always get basic data from the state, such as counts of ventilators at hospitals or nursing home staff. “It’s like they have been ordered not to talk to us,” the person said.

The city official also said that after the city had been assisting the state in identifying and responding to outbreaks in city nursing homes, the state two weeks ago abruptly told the city its help wasn’t needed. More than 5,000 nursing home residents in New York have died of COVID-19. . . .

The official said early on, the two departments had worked closely and in sync. They conducted joint webinars for health care providers to keep them informed and guide them in their preparations.

“There was an amazing trust,” the city official said. “Then, in late February, the switch flipped. All communication ended. We were left to work in a black box.”

City health officials were disinvited from subsequent planning meetings with health care providers. Calls and emails were ignored. Information sharing in the midst of a pandemic halted.

The city official said city health workers asked their state counterparts what had caused the sudden lack of communication and cooperation. It was out of character for people the city had worked with intimately for years. Their counterparts would not or could not say, but the city official concluded it had been ordered from the governor’s office.

In the coming weeks, the lack of a collaborative relationship between city and state officials played out in real ways. Nursing homes, all overseen by the state, had become scenes of misery and death as the virus swept through the aging populations. Initially, the state asked the city’s help in identifying and then responding to the increasingly dire outbreaks. The city took on responsibility for monitoring 25 nursing homes and offered to help coordinate any interventions.

And then, again, the partnership foundered.

“We were told our help wasn’t needed,” the city official said. “A lot of switches being flipped. And all in the same direction.”

As Pro Publica notes, Cuomo and de Blasio, “each of whom has harbored national political ambitions, had engaged in a kind of intrastate cold war, a rivalry that to many often felt childish and counterproductive.” In this pandemic, the rivalry was deadly.

The article is long, but worth reading in its entirety.

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