There was a different way.
Nobody forced the Cuomo administration to withhold COVID-19 nursing home data, or stonewall those seeking an accurate count of residents who died of COVID-19.
Nobody forced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to dismiss criticism of his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes as “politically motivated,” or to treat the ongoing effort to learn the truth of what happened as almost beneath comment.
The governor chose to behave this way, and the scandal now exploding around him is the result of a cascading series of bad decisions, all of which he is ultimately responsible for.
This might seem obvious to anyone paying attention, but last week top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa told lawmakers that the administration “froze” when asked to release the full number of nursing homes, in large part because they feared former President Donald Trump would turn the situation into a “giant political football.”
Let’s be clear: The refusal to provide public information is not the fault of Trump, or anyone else.
All along, a different way was possible.
Cuomo could have released an accurate death toll months ago, when questions first arose about why the state Department of Health’s tally of COVID-19 nursing deaths excluded residents who died in hospitals.
He could have been honest about what happened, corrected the record and stopped downplaying the scope of the state’s nursing home tragedy.
He didn’t do that.
Think of it as a path that could have been taken.
That should have been taken.
Cuomo was always going to face some criticism for his pandemic response, and for how hard the virus hit nursing homes in particular.
What he’s being criticized for now isn’t one or two misguided policies, but for hiding the truth and refusing to admit any errors in judgment, even in the wake of a damning report from the state Attorney General that found the state might have undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
The nursing home scandal has brought Cuomo’s biggest flaws to the fore.
The governor is not someone who admits mistakes, or apologizes for them.
Indeed, the only apology over the state’s nursing home response has been from DeRosa to the Democratic lawmakers on the conference call, for putting them in an awkward position at a highly charged political moment.
There’s been no apology to grieving families, or any real display of remorse.
Nor has there been any acknowledgement that the state erred in blocking the release of public data, and that more transparency is in order.
As Assemblyman Ron Kim, D-Queens, who was on the call with DeRosa, put it: “It’s not enough how contrite they are with us. They need to show that to the public and the families – and they haven’t done that.”
Kim isn’t suggesting that the Cuomo administration do anything radical.
He’s simply asking that it does what needs to be done.
But it’s hard to imagine, at this late date, that the governor will approach the topic of nursing homes with more humility, or do things differently in the future.
It’s hard to imagine him choosing a different way.
And that’s a shame.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.