Maybe if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff had helped him write the real story of his management of the covid crisis instead of the vanity book that got published, New Yorkers would have been spared some of the deadly ravages of the pandemic.
Last week, state Attorney General Letitia James released thousands of pages of transcripts from interviews with the former governor and those who came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment. It was those claims that led to Cuomo’s resignation in August.
Other than a few new disclosures, those portions of the transcripts released last week weren’t particularly revealing. The witnesses generally came across as credible and consistent, while Cuomo came across as evasive and belligerent in his attempts to deflect the criticism. Nothing surprising there, if you’ve ever listened to him field questions at a press conference.
All of those allegations of a hostile workplace overseen by Cuomo and managed by his closest advisers are serious, and are rightly part of an ongoing investigation.
But what New Yorkers should also get from the transcripts are the revelations about how Cuomo handled the covid crisis.
On the outside, to many of us, he was the competent, reassuring port in the storm, the counterweight to his chaotic, uncompassionate counterpart in the White House.
But the testimony of one state official, Dr. Elizabeth Dufort, the former director of epidemiology for the state Health Department, reveals that the governor wasn’t the super-manager of the crisis he presented himself to be.
Among the most damning revelations was that the administration hindered the state’s response to the crisis at times by blocking Cuomo’s Health Department from working together with local health officials.
Among those shut out were officials from the New York City Department of Health and Hygiene, Dufort testified. New York City at one point, and for a long time, was the epicenter of the national outbreak.
Dufort also testified that the state delayed the release of information such as lab results to local health departments or doctors, potentially making it more difficult for them to respond in the most effective manner.
She also noted concerns over delays in reporting accurate nursing home data, the flawed strategy of isolating areas of large covid outbreaks, the delays in issuing covid guidelines for schools, the challenge and frustration of health professionals in dealing with non-medical staff in the administration, the special treatment for favored individuals in early testing, and the burnout among health professionals because of the enforced heavy workload.
For the health and well-being of all New Yorkers, Gov. Kathy Hochul must authorize a full, independent review of the administration’s response that includes a plan for dealing with a similar crisis in the future.
When the full story of the state’s covid response is told, librarians may have to move Cuomo’s book to the Fiction section.