A reminder about Andrew Cuomo’s other major scandal
While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to exit Albany, it’s important to remember that the sexual harassment allegations that finally drove him from office – bad as they are, and likely illegal, too – weren’t the only terrible things he did as governor.
Right at the top – and the reason why Cuomo was already facing an impeachment inquiry — was his handling of the coronavirus during the early days of the outbreak.
As Steven Thrasher wrote in Scientific American:
At the same time as it was unscientifically slashing the Medicaid budget in a pandemic, the Cuomo administration was making a disastrous and lethal decision: to send patients recovering from COVID-19 to nursing homes, which did not have the proper staff, ventilation, PPE or physical facilities to protect either their patients—the most vulnerable population at-risk for COVID death—nor their workforce largely made of women of color, many living in tight quarters with other highly vulnerable people.
The results, Thrasher reminds us, were entirely predictable:
Initially, the New York Times reported that some 6,200 people had died of COVID in New York’s nursing homes, which was already a high number. (These included one person very dear to me, ex–Village Voice editor Ward Harkavy.) Pro Publica reported in June 2020 that the three states that illogically sent patients recovering from COVID into nursing homes—New York, Michigan and New Jersey—had severely higher numbers of nursing home deaths.
But that already-too-high 6,200 number was lowballed. In January, New York State Attorney General Letitia James accused the Cuomo administration of purposely undercounting the nursing home dead, which was about double (12,743) what the administration had initially reported. Shortly thereafter, New York Assemblyman Ron T. Kim, chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Aging, accused Cuomo of calling his home threatening to “destroy” him for speaking critically on the matter.
Cuomo got a lot of fawning praise from the press – including an Emmy Award and a bestselling book about leadership.
Thrasher was scathing in his reaction to it all:
…liberals and their water carriers in the mainstream media have built up “America’s governor,” whose refusal to learn from science may have cost tens of thousands of lives when he shut down too slowly, cut all those hospital beds, cut Medicaid, sent the ill to nursing homes, gave the nursing homes immunity (thereby mitigating their desire to spend money on lifesaving infrastructure investments) and not vaccinating farmworkers with due haste.
The question now: will Cuomo have to give his Emmy Award back?