EDITORIAL: What’s the state’s plan for the next COVID surge?

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers his daily press briefing on COVID-19 Friday, May 23.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers his daily press briefing on COVID-19 Friday, May 23.

With covid cases once again on the rise — thanks in large part to many people still refusing to get vaccinated and the domination of the Delta variant in the resurgence — it raises the question of how the state plans to handle another potential wave.

What’s the state government’s plan should the situation become significantly worse as we enter the fall and winter months?

Certainly, the plan can’t be what the Legislature did when the crisis first hit early last year – which was to delegate all the responsibility and decision-making to one person – the governor.

Someone has to be in charge in an emergency. If the public had to wait for the Legislature to hold hearings and issue reports as the crisis was changing by the day, New York would have been in a much worse position than it was. But it’s clear that giving one person full control over such a far-reaching and complex crisis was a mistake that can’t be repeated.

Lawmakers need to take a bigger role, and they need to give the governor a much shorter leash than he had the last time to make decisions on allocations of funding, mandates on businesses and individual movement, closures of businesses and schools, and management of medical resources.

The medical community is much better prepared to deal with a new wave of the virus than it was at the beginning.

Protocols were put in place to ensure they have beds available. And they learned which treatments were most and least effective, which will help mitigate the impact of another wave of cases.

But what happens if individual hospitals and nursing care facilities are again suddenly overwhelmed by a surge in new cases? What happens if the treatments that were effective with the old variant aren’t effective against new variants?

The last time around, the governor and his staff made decisions unilaterally, some of which were effective and some of which made the situation worse. What role will the Legislature take to make the state’s response more effective and safe this time around?

A new wave of cases might require a new wave of mandates from the state to prevent the spread, such as mandating mask wearing and limiting or closing businesses, and restricting the size of public gatherings.

The governor’s decisions often seemed haphazard and unreasonable. If the Legislature has to deal with another wave, how will it address those same situations?

What about schools, which were thrown into disarray over changing and inconsistent direction from the state?

How will the decisions affecting in-person vs. remote learning be implemented? What if it becomes clear that vaccinations, mask-wearing and remote learning need to become mandatory to curb the spread in schools?

Who is making that call, and how much input will citizens and school boards have?

Do local governments have the resources and guidance they need to handle a surge of new cases? How will the Legislature make sure that they do?

How transparent do lawmakers plan to be, both with data and decisions, the next time around? Cuomo’s office continues to operate from a position of stealth. The public won’t continue to tolerate secrecy.

Will lawmakers who cowered from responsibility the last time around find the courage to impose unpopular restrictions and mandates that the public and businesses might resist, even in the face of a dangerous resurgence of the virus?

If they again allocate much of that authority to the governor, will he even have a mandate to impose new executive orders?

Cuomo right now is politically wounded, his power and his aura cracked by some of his decisions during the crisis and the scandals hanging over his head.

If the various investigations come to fruition as covid cases are rising, can he be effective at all in managing the crisis, even in partnership with lawmakers?

The Legislature isn’t scheduled to return to session until January. A lot can happen in the next five months that could determine how well New York weathers the next covid storm.

With all the experience, knowledge and perspective officials at all levels of government gained from the last 17 months, there’s no excuse for not being prepared to manage the next crisis.

Is there a plan in place?

And if so, tell us now.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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