A few weeks ago, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, without a hint of self-awareness, said, “Incompetent government kills people. More people died than needed to die in COVID.” Sadly, I couldn’t agree more.
While many in corporate media glorified Cuomo’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping create a cult of personality for him among Democrats across the country, an examination of his decision-making reveals that he failed New Yorkers on many fronts.
Cuomo was given near-unilateral emergency powers to tackle the pandemic, with the state legislature forfeiting all decision-making and responsibility to the governor and his team. Thus, Cuomo’s decisions and the repercussions of his actions fall squarely on his shoulders. First, and most jarring, is the revelation that the Cuomo administration’s decided to cover up the true cost of their Department of Health order on March 25 that sent COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes. That fateful order was subsequently deleted from the state’s Department of Health website in the beginning of the cover-up by the Cuomo administration.
Following that order, tens of thousands of nursing home residents lost their lives and the Cuomo administration moved into overdrive on blocking transparency efforts, shutting down inquiries at every turn, and even releasing a phony report absolving them of any responsibility. Two weeks ago, we learned in a report by New York Attorney General Tish James, a Democrat, that Cuomo’s administration hid the true cost to lives of this non-scientific order, under-counting nursing home deaths by almost 50 percent. Just this weekend, we learned the Cuomo administration intentionally hid and withheld information from federal authorities.
We need a full, thorough, and independent investigation with subpoenas to Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, the governor’s staff, and the governor himself.
It also speaks volumes that for months on end, the governor stonewalled transparency efforts by families that lost loved ones while mocking their efforts. His cruelty in this regard was on full display in January when he said “Who cares?” when asked about the death toll.
We care, governor. Those families deserve answers and justice.
Second, Cuomo’s administration forced out many of the public health experts who should have been developing New York’s vaccine plan, deciding instead to recruit expensive consulting firms. This led to an incredibly slow, ineffectual, and confusing rollout of the vaccine. My legislative office is still receiving daily calls from seniors older than 80 who simply cannot get an appointment no matter how hard they look.
While media outlets continue to sing Cuomo’s praises, the reality on the ground is that his top-down, Soviet-esque management style has hampered the efficacy and speed of the vaccine rollout, tying local health departments in knots. Every county health department in New York already has a mass vaccination plan, yet the governor refused for weeks to let them use those plans, instead of forcing them into the system created by his high-priced and high-brow consulting firms, all at taxpayers’ expense.
Third, Cuomo’s extensive lockdowns and subsequent non-scientific decisions to limit capacity in houses of worship shut down indoor dining, and restrict in-person learning (even temporarily) have hurt millions more. Setting unconstitutional caps on houses of worship was rejected by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, a case that shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. Many houses of worship, spanning all types of faiths, were already setting limits on themselves to ensure the health and safety of their worshippers. Recommending that they be shut down or capped was ludicrous, and an affront to the basic right to freedom of religion in our nation.
Another group whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by Cuomo’s insatiable desire for control is restaurant owners and restaurant workers. Shutting down indoor dining in New York City made zero sense at the time, with people being infected at less than 1.5 percent (lower than the state positivity rate) when dining indoors. Now, Cuomo has reopened dining when the infection rate has climbed significantly.
These decisions are not being made based on science, but what the governor “feels” is the right move. That is a recipe for disaster that cannot be allowed to continue. Cuomo’s actions are driven by his need for control, his ego, and his ability to legislate freely, as Democrats in the state legislature have completely abdicated all their duties as a co-equal branch of government.
Finally, it’s clear that New York students are rapidly falling behind other students around the globe. The lack of in-person interaction and learning is having devastating impacts on our children’s academic and social futures, as they are not learning the important lessons we all learned in grade school. To the governor’s credit, he didn’t outright ban in-person learning, but he certainly hasn’t been a champion for it either. Hybrid-learning programs are still leaving our kids behind, and his silence on this subject is deafening. I’d hazard a guess he’s spent more time bashing former President Trump at his press conferences than he has talked about the needs of our students.
In short, the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of disastrous for the millions of New Yorkers who call the Empire State home. While CNN, MSNBC, and other major news outlets remain busy pumping up Cuomo’s ego and image to the American public, Americans need to hear that his decisions cost tens of thousands of New Yorkers their lives, hundreds of thousands of students their educational advancement, and millions of New Yorkers their livelihoods.
Mike Lawler is a member of the New York Assembly.