A handful of top New York health officials have left their posts in protest over Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report that adds another layer to the Democrat’s many controversies.
Cuomo has made his position on health experts clear in recent days, even saying during a Friday press conference that he doesn’t “really trust them.”
“When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” the governor said. “Because I don’t.”
The quote now looks especially bad in the context of a new report from the New York Times, detailing Cuomo’s troubled relationship with health officials in his state during the pandemic.
According to the report, at least nine top Health Department officials have left their positions since March of last year, in various forms of protest over Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, which reportedly often includes him ignoring the advice of experts.
One such instance has been his already controversial vaccine distribution plan. State health officials reportedly had a plan they’d been perfecting to distribute an emergency vaccine for the past two decades – one which Cuomo threw away in favor of a more state-controlled approach. Instead of giving more power to local officials to distribute vaccines according to their areas’ needs, Cuomo’s plan has strict rules on exactly which groups receive the vaccine first.
It’s been a troubled rollout, as reports have come forth about unused vaccines in certain areas, as have stories about frustrated officials – including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ripped Cuomo for a threat to fine hospitals not following his specific distribution instructions.
Cuomo’s plan, according to the report citing close sources, was drawn up with the help of “hospital executives, outside consultants and a top hospital lobbyist in closed-door meetings.”
“The governor’s approach in the beginning seemed to go against the grain in terms of what the philosophy was about how to do this,” former New York City Health Department Deputy Commissioner Dr. Isaac Weisfuse said. “It did seem to negate 15 to 20 years of work.”
In responding to the report and allegations of not listening to experts enough, Cuomo took his usual standoffish approach and waved off criticism, insisting he’s “saving lives.”
“If Times reporters think I push hospitals too hard and local governments too hard, I say I’m a fighter for the people of New York and I believe I’m saving lives,” he said.
The governor also quoted boxer Mike Tyson when talking about the state’s health department simply becoming overwhelmed with the scale of the pandemic.
“It’s the Mike Tyson line: ‘Everybody has a plan until I punch them in the face,’” he said.
The report, combined with Cuomo’s own words, has led to a fresh round of controversy, from usual critics like Fox News’ Janice Dean to surprising dissenters such as CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“Wildly irresponsible thing to say during a pandemic,” Tapper said of Cuomo’s comments about not “trusting” health experts.
Wildly irresponsible thing to say during a pandemic. “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of pandemic policies. “Because I don’t.” https://t.co/ePa6nudbFz
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 1, 2021
“I’m glad the press is shifting to telling the truth about Cuomo, but it is worth noting that all of this was known back in the summer. Some of us were screaming about it constantly, but most of the coverage remained overwhelmingly positive/incurious,” journalist AG Hamilton noted about the recent turn in coverage on Cuomo.
Business Owners: Today’s New York Times story shows that Cuomo probably wasn’t listening to his own health department when he shut you down.
— Joe Borelli (@JoeBorelliNYC) February 1, 2021
Interesting that @NYGovCuomo likes to rely on hospital lobbyists to help with decisions during the pandemic including putting infected patients into nursing homes and now the vaccine rollout.
— Janice Dean (@JaniceDean) February 1, 2021
The governor, who authored a book on “leadership lessons from Covid-19,” has similarly dismissed numerous controversies before. After months of not taking responsibility for reports indicating an early order from his administration forcing nursing homes to accept Covid-positive patients led to thousands of unnecessary deaths, the state’s attorney general released results from an investigation finding that not only did the order do exactly what critics had said, but the state may have also been underreporting nursing home deaths by more than 50 percent.
Cuomo waved off the report and claimed it was irrelevant if seniors died inside or outside nursing homes, adding that the federal government should be held responsible for the deaths.
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