UPDATED 7:00 PM PT – Monday, February 1, 2021
All eyes are on Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) as he comes under immense scrutiny for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the New York Times released a report which detailed Cuomo’s contentious relationship with the New York State Health Department. The report claimed nine top health officials resigned over the past year, citing low morale and pushback from the governor’s office.
“When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Cuomo previously stated. “Because I don’t.”
The former officials alleged their quarrel reached a climax when the governor’s office sidestepped their proposals for dishing out COVID-19 vaccines to residents. They added Cuomo shelved decades worth of planning between the state’s health department with local departments to coordinate vaccination distribution.
Instead, they claimed Cuomo created his own plan where big hospitals would take on the burden of vaccinating their staff and much of the New York population.
The former officials said Cuomo’s inexperience and understanding of large-scale health operations led to the state’s slow vaccination rollout.
Cuomo is also in hot water over his administration’s alleged cover-up of the nursing home deaths from COVID-19. The governor attempted to dig himself out of his political grave by claiming New York was well below the national average with a death rate at 28 percent.
“But who cares. 33, 28 died in a hospital, died in a nursing home. They died, I understand,” Cuomo said. “Maybe the instinct to blame, or to find relief for the pain you are feeling. But, it is a tragedy and it’s a tragedy that continues today.”
However, an investigation launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed the numbers were underreported by as much as 50 percent.
We found that:
➡️@HealthNYGov‘s public data undercounted #COVID19 deaths in some nursing homes by as much as 50%
➡️Some nursing homes failed to comply with infection control protocols
➡️Facilities with lower staffing ratings had higher #COVID19 fatality rates
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) January 28, 2021
Several New York representatives, including Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), called this a failure of policy. Zeldin pointed out that as early as March of last year, the state was placing infected patients in the same facilities as healthy ones.
“They then artificially suppressed the count of the amount of people who died as a result of this policy,” Zeldin said. “That’s why we just saw this report come out from the New York state attorney general showing this massive undercount. I believe that it was a deliberate undercount to protect the governor.”
Cuomo announced the state will lift some COVID-19 restrictions, including indoor dining, beginning February 14. Many businesses will be able to operate at 25 percent and could expand to fuller capacity by March 15.
Update on indoor dining in NYC:
If positivity rates hold we will reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity on Valentine’s Day – February 14.
In addition to reduced capacity, mandatory safety guidelines will be in place.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 29, 2021
However, some restaurant owners said that is not enough, claiming they cannot sustain their businesses on outdoor dining during the coming winter storms.