It was a stunning confession.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo admitted that closing schools and colleges in his state was a spur-of-the-moment decision based on a health crisis for which he was not prepared. “What we said at a moment of crisis is ‘isolate everyone,’” Cuomo told reporters while seated in front of boxes of medical supplies. “Close the schools, close the colleges, send everyone home, isolate everyone in their home. [It] wasn’t even smart, frankly, to isolate younger people with older people.”
Cuomo conceded that the reason he ordered public schools and colleges shut down was that he “didn’t have the knowledge [and] we needed to act.” The governor’s comments were made on March 24, more than two months after the first reported case of coronavirus was detected in Washington state.
New York, particularly the city, is the nation’s current hotbed of coronavirus activity. According to one tracking site, nearly 31,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 3,800 hospitalizations and 285 deaths. On Wednesday, three army hospitals were deployed to New York and Washington to provide medical support and additional beds if needed.
The third-term Democratic governor, unsurprisingly, is earning media praise for his handling of the crisis.
“Andrew Cuomo shows how to lead during the coronavirus crisis,” swooned the Washington Post’s editorial board this week. Cuomo, according to his hometown newspaper, is the “politician of the moment” whose daily press briefings are must-watch events praised both by Democrats and Republicans like former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Even Billy Joel is impressed with the tough-talking political progeny. A recent poll places Cuomo towards the top on the list of officials Americans most trust to handle the Wuhan virus debacle.
Cuomo, his new admirers insist, is the antidote to President Trump—a leader who rose to the challenge, spoke the truth, and made the tough choices while the White House ducked and dithered.
“If social media is a reflection of how people are feeling, Cuomo’s image during the coronavirus outbreak is one of authority, yet hope—a role people value enough to begin visualizing his presidency,” one smitten CBS News reporter cooed.
But neither Cuomo nor New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio deserve attaboys. A toxic combination of Big Apple hubris, devotion to open borders regardless of the imminent threat, and Trump-hating obstinacy fueled a stubborn strategy that left their citizens vulnerable for months.
Further, New York’s political leaders have acknowledged that the world’s financial capital—a city home to nearly 9 million people, the most densely populated city in the country—has no comprehensive plan to deal with a pandemic or any viral public health threat. Cuomo and DeBlasio have cobbled together a last-minute, slapdash strategy as COVID-19 spread across the globe and closed in on New York City.
By January 31, the day President Trump suspended flights from China, “outbreaks were already growing in over 30 cities across 26 countries, most seeded by travelers from Wuhan,” according to one model by the New York Times.
But even by late February, Cuomo boasted about his state’s accessibility to foreign travelers—his state, the governor said on February 26, is the “front door” for visitors from around the world—while only instituting voluntary quarantines for suspected coronavirus carriers.
“Our operating paradigm has always been, prepare for the worst but hope for the best,” Cuomo said.
That paradigm, apparently, did not include prohibiting hundreds of thousands of potentially infected travelers from entering his state since January. Tourists and business travelers continued to pour into the Big Apple during the first several days of March without any comprehensive screening or restrictions.
Cuomo this week again bragged about his state’s open arms, which resulted in New York’s current crisis. The reason New York now has so many more cases of coronavirus, even more than California, is “because we welcome people from across the globe,” he said on March 25. “We have people coming here, we have people who came here from China, who came here from Italy, who came here from all across the globe.”
No one, of course, should be surprised that a leading Democratic politician prioritized open borders diversity politics over public health.
Cuomo hasn’t been alone in downplaying the early threat of COVID-19. Bill DeBlasio, who had suspended his presidential campaign a few months earlier, seemed to mock the menace, directing New Yorkers to proceed as normal. “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions,” he tweeted on March 2. He then offered a movie recommendation. His health commissioner encouraged residents to attend the city’s annual Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown. “I want to remind everyone to enjoy the parade and not change any plans due to misinformation spreading about #coronavirus,” Oxiris Barbot tweeted February 9.
Social media is flooded with dire stories about the situation in New York City hospitals. (Oddly, this is supposed to reflect poorly on the president and not on the city whose leaders and residents remind you on an hourly basis that they are best at everything.) A wrenching article in the Times described the conditions at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens: More than two-thirds of the residents who live in the surrounding neighborhood were born outside of the United States. The reporters told of long waits in the emergency room and beds filling up. Thirteen people died at Elmhurst in one day, although the article does not confirm all of the victims succumbed to COVID-19.
But medical personnel told the Times that an influx of people complaining of flu-like systems began in the first week of March. So, why didn’t the mayor or the governor act then to ensure city hospitals, particularly those situated in low-income areas where residents have limited access to high-quality care, were better prepared?
This problem isn’t a new one prompted by a surge in coronavirus victims, however. A public policy researcher in 2015 detailed long waits in New York City emergency rooms. The head of the emergency department for the Mount Sinai hospital system quit in 2018 after less than a year on the job.
“I had to follow my moral compass and leave and decide this is not an organization that cares for patients,” Dr. Eric Barton told the New York Post.
Last year, city nurses threatened to strike due to overcrowding at three major hospital systems. “Nurse Anthony Ciampa said he had to choose recently between feeding an elderly patient at New York Presbyterian and treating several acutely ill patients because there weren’t enough other nurses on duty,” according to a March 2019 report in the Daily News.
And the outcry about ventilators? State officials were informed several years ago that the stockpile of ventilators was woefully inadequate to handle a severe pandemic. But instead of preparing for a looming crisis and buying 16,000 ventilators, the state’s health commissioner formed a task force to develop a system to ration the life-saving equipment. The task force “came up with rules that will be imposed when ventilators run short,” the New York Post reported last week. “Patients assigned a red code will have highest access, and other patients will be assigned green, yellow or blue (the worst), depending on a ‘triage officer’s’ decision.”
Now that Cuomo’s rationing plan is backfiring and his lack of preparation is exposed, he’s blaming Washington for his state’s self-induced emergency.
Cuomo is demanding that the federal government find the 15,000 extra ventilators his state will need in the next two weeks. During a press briefing this week, Cuomo admitted his state normally has 4,000 ventilators; they recently purchased another 7,000. (The federal government has sent 4,000.) But why did Cuomo wait so long to obtain these machines and why is it somehow Trump’s responsibility, and not Cuomo’s, to find them?
Such questions, like so many related to the coronavirus scare, are not allowed. The media is in full gaga mode over Andrew Cuomo’s daily monologues and cutesy interviews with his brother on CNN. But the facts prove that Cuomo put his state, and yes, the country as a whole, in danger with his last-minute disaster planning and fealty to open borders. That should spark outrage, not admiration.