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Buffoon – Bumbler – Brilliant?

May 19, 2020 pm31 3:44 pm

Trump the buffoon, de Blasio the bumbler, but Cuomo’s been brilliant?
Not so fast!

The nightly news version, the press conference version, that fits.

Trump blusters, brags, bullies. He exudes confidence in his intellect and abilities, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

He really wants to be good at this, he wants to sound official, and somber, and caring, but de Blasio’s meandering, whining, pleading, plodding press conferences inspire mostly sighs.

Cuomo stands out. He’s punchy. He’s sharp. He’s confident. He’s cogent. He cares. He’s realistic.

Donald the Buffoon, Bill the Bumbler, and Brilliant Andrew. Case closed?

Not so fast.

When the bar is set at “not completely insane” Cuomo clears it pretty easily. But we should not be using such a low bar.

Cuomo grabbed more emergency powers than were reasonable, and then abused them: to cut aid to localities (schools and health care) and to take revenge on political opponents.

But the crisis, right? Hasn’t he been a shining light in the storm? Well, no. Take an hour, read this Propublica piece. (might take you 20 minutes, took me 40, deserves an hour). Or, here, let me pull out some highlights. The article contrasts the response in NY State and California, with a lot about NYC and San Francisco, as well. Cuomo and de Blasio get blasted. Strangely, de Blasio, even with criticism, comes off better than he does from his press conferences. Another low bar.

Anyway, skim the highlights, and then go read the full piece.

Two Coasts. One Virus. How New York Suffered Nearly 10 Times the Number of Deaths as California.

On March 17, de Blasio suggested a “shelter in place” order as in California. Cuomo blocked it: ““shelter-in-place” sounded like it was a response to a nuclear apocalypse. Moreover, Cuomo said, he alone had the power to order such a measure.” The order came five days later. With exponential growth, and a doubling time of less than five days, that delay may have doubled the total number of New York deaths.

“No later than Feb. 28, federal officials warned the country that a deadly pandemic was inevitable. It is from that point forward, they say, that any individual state’s actions should be judged.” But ““Governors don’t do global pandemics,” Cuomo said.”

“While New York’s formal pandemic response plan underscores the need for seamless communication between state and local officials, the state Health Department broke off routine sharing of information and strategy with its city counterpart in February”

The article is not kind to de Blasio either: “For his part, de Blasio spent critical weeks spurning his own Health Department’s increasingly urgent belief that trying to contain the spread of the virus was a fool’s errand. The clear need, as early as late February, was to move to an all-out effort at not being overrun by the disease, which meant closing things down and restricting people’s movements.”

The disconnect between de Blasio and his own Health Department played out — perhaps decisively — in late February and early March. The events of those days have been reconstructed through notes kept at the time by the city official alarmed by what they were seeing — the diminishment and disregarding of one of the world’s most respected local health departments. The official’s notes show that late February was the first opportunity for de Blasio to have absorbed what his department was warning about. It didn’t go well. “He said all the wrong things,” the official wrote after a Feb. 26 news conference.

All eyes are on the federal government’s lack of stockpile (and rightly so). But the article points out Cuomo’s responsibility: “New York’s pandemic preparedness and response plan, first created in 2006 and running to hundreds of pages, predicted the state’s health care system would be overwhelmed in such a situation, and it highlighted two vital necessities: a robust and up-to-date state stockpile of emergency equipment and protective gear, and a mechanism for quickly expanding the number of hospital beds available. Despite repeated requests, New York state health officials would not say what was in the state’s stockpile at the start of 2020, but it clearly wasn’t adequate.”

But while the state’s plan makes clear its obligation to be adequately prepared, Cuomo over many weeks sought to portray the federal government as the culprit for the crisis in shortages of protective gear and medical equipment such as ventilators.

As for expanding hospital capacity, it was not until March 16 that Cuomo designated a task force to engineer greater numbers of beds, demanding a 50% increase in capacity in 24 hours. “You could make an argument that it should have happened a month before,” said Michael Dowling, the chief executive officer of Northwell Health, the largest hospital organization in the state and one of the health care leaders Cuomo appointed to the task force.

The state’s performance once New York fell under siege from the disease has also been challenged. State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker — one of a half-dozen advisers who made up Cuomo’s brain trust during the crisis — has been pilloried by the local press for his decision to allow nursing home residents who tested positive for the disease to be returned to those homes. The administration reversed its position this week.

Meanwhile, the New York State Nurses Association has sued the state Health Department and its commissioner for failing to adequately equip front-line medical workers with protective wear and allowing hospitals to order nurses sickened by the virus back to work.

…when the March 2 news of community spread surfaced in New Rochelle, Cuomo urged calm. The state, he proudly noted, had successfully confronted a wide variety of health scares over the years. “We are fully coordinated, and we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops,” Cuomo said. “This isn’t our first rodeo.”

 

 

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