Myopic Leadership on COVID-19 Continues to Grip New York City

As a New York City physician, I was dismayed by the recent report of the closure of the Brooklyn field hospital authorized by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The New York Post has reported that amid the pandemic, a $21 million Brooklyn field hospital never saw a patient. This followed on the heels of New York City officials closing the 470-bed field hospital set up at a tennis center.

Regardless of political orientation, leadership and reporters appear intentionally to be ignoring risks of neglecting CDC and state recommendations. This not only prolongs the severe economic damage and long-term consequences of the closure, but puts more lives at risk.

The empty bed capacity of the USNS Comfort hospital ship, the field hospital set up in Central Park by the Samaritan’s Purse Evangelical organization led by Rev. Franklin Graham, as well as these Brooklyn and Queens field hospitals could have served as vital reserve capacity to allow for reserve beds counted to meet this threshold. Instead, the ship was sent away because it was perceived as no longer needed, and the Samaritan’s Purse organization was maligned in the New York Times in a style unique to the leadership and media of New York City (“Franklin Graham Is Taking Down His N.Y. Hospital, but Not Going Quietly”), and the city is closing down field hospitals under its authority. 

Allowing these hospitals with “empty beds” to close in the wake of the first wave of the tragedy of COVID-19 represents a failure of foresight, leadership, and the complete dereliction of duty by our elected leaders and city government. 

Rather than focusing their efforts on the “chutzpah” of criticizing those who have come to help us motivated by their religious beliefs or inflating the list of pandemic victims by printing the names of those we have lost to causes other than COVID-19, media such as the New York Times and the elected local leadership need to focus on achieving the metrics necessary both to reopen the economy and preserve lives.

As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has stated, “We must make reopening decisions based on fact. No politics. No spin. No Emotion. No conspiracies. Just the facts and the data and the science.” 

In order to reopen, the governor says, “The health care system has the capacity to absorb a potential resurgence in new cases.” We now know that while New York City health authorities with the help of media such as the Times were fictionally and intentionally inflating the number of cases and deaths, and misrepresenting old cases as current to inflate the tally of newly diagnosed cases. 

Meanwhile, those authorities and their media allies attacked Evangelicals for their religious beliefs, jeopardizing their presence to absorb potentially real “new cases.”

While New York City could and should already have opened had they focused on measures that needed to be done according to the CDC, WHO and the governor’s office, the city remains closed—based on assumptions repeated day after day by the media that New York City was far above the threshold of new cases needed to reopen, assumptions that were simply fictional. 

The problem now is a lack of empty bed capacity, and with the city closing yet another empty field hospital, New York City remains shy of the available bed requirement to reopen. New York City has myopic leadership and a deluded press corps that feed off each other, which results in the impoverishment of the people of the city and may cost many their lives as they play politics. 

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About Israel N. Kochin

Israel N. Kochin, M.D. is a New York City physician and member of the New York City Medical Reserve Corps.

Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

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