There is an old saying that if you don’t honk yourself, there won’t be any music. Governor Andrew Cuomo is clearly a believer, after ending a series of 111 daily coronavirus briefings with an explosion of praise for himself.
From March 2 to Friday, he appeared in marathon appearances that increased his political rank. At the start he reached an extraordinary 87 percent agreement in the state and an April poll found that 56 percent of national Democrats wanted to dump Joe Biden and make Cuomo a presidential candidate.
This support reflects how proficient the governor’s performance is in front of the camera. He seems to have a fact order and uses large charts to show the flow of cases, hospitalization and death. He repeated the federal mantra of “leveling the curve” to justify his historic closure in New York.
As time went by, Cuomo became a person and used his mother, three daughters, CNN news anchor brother, late father and others as props. Off-topic detours, which included his method for cooking meatballs, grew very indulgent, but still made him loved by viewers dubbed “Cuomosexuals.”
But there’s another old saying that also applies here – looks can be deceiving. In this case, they are of course due to the fact outside the camera is that the management of the Cuomo pandemic response is an extraordinary disaster.
Thousands of elderly New Yorkers may have died because of his mistakes – but he innocently refused to admit a single mistake to a grieving family.
The biggest mistake was the famous Ministry of Health’s order on March 25 which required nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to accept COVID-19 patients who were discharged from hospitals. It stands out as one of the worst decisions in New York history because it condemns the death of the most vulnerable to hell surrounded by strangers while no friends or relatives are allowed to visit.
The order gave nursing homes no warning, no help and no way to reject infectious patients. To prevent discrimination, it is even said that the home cannot ask if a patient is forced to do a positive test.
Officially, New York said the corona virus claimed 6,200 lives in nursing homes, or about 25 percent of the state’s total of nearly 25,000 deaths, but the actual number was clearly higher. Some estimate that deaths in nursing homes are approaching 12,000.
One reason for this gap is that many of those who died have never been tested. Another is that officials changed the method of counting in the middle of the river. Residents who were sick in homes but died in hospitals were initially calculated as the total nursing home; then, their deaths are counted in the total hospital.
Although the order wreaked havoc behind closed doors, the general public was in the dark until The Post broke the news on April 21, and the governor had attacked The Post ever since. That day, Albany reporter Bernadette Hogan asked about the order at the briefing.
“That’s a good question, I don’t know,” Cuomo said, turning to Dr. Howard Zucker, his health commissioner. Zucker assured the media that “the necessary precautions will be taken to protect other residents” in nursing homes.
It was the first of many lies that Cuomo and his team would use in their efforts to avoid responsibility and blame. Zucker should know and Cuomo should know that no precautions – zero, no – were taken to protect the residents of nursing homes.
Because orders were immediately put in place, without inspections or even conversations with managers, the state did not know which of the 600 long-term care facilities had enough space and staff to separate COVID-19 patients. The state also does not know if the facility has protective equipment for nurses and others who will treat infected patients.
The next day, my column included a sad example of a disaster that had lasted for almost a month. Long Island educator Arlene Mullin, in a letter marking the March 25 order and pointing to Hogan’s question, went straight to the point.
“I wonder who will hold Governor Cuomo responsible for the deaths of so many parents because of his careless decision,” Mullin wrote. “I write as a princess who lost her 88-year-old beautiful mother who was receiving physical therapy in a facility like that.”
His devastated experience, we know now, is not unique at that time and many others will suffer the same suffering in the following weeks. Their sadness is exacerbated because Cuomo prohibits families from visiting their loved ones since March 12, so that visitors do not bring the virus to a nursing home.
The decision, based on what happened in the states of Washington, Italy, China and South Korea, shows knowledge of the extreme dangers that the virus presents to the elderly. But two weeks later, a Health Department order forcibly inserted the virus into the same houses, where it spread like wildfire.
Despite the deadly consequences of his decision, Cuomo has used an ever-changing excuse of cheap and rude offers to blame anyone but himself. He alternately points fingers at God, Trump administration and the owner of the nursing home.
Even more strange, after he canceled his order on May 10, Cuomo continued to keep it, saying “Whatever we have done has been successful, based on facts.”
If it works, why cancel it?
Part of his defense is repeatedly blaming The Post, especially me and fellow columnist Bob McManus, accusing us of trying to protect President Trump. He said our coverage was only “political,” calling death in a nursing home “a shiny object” and adding Chief Post Rupert Murdoch to his black sheep list.
Unfortunately for Cuomo, the accusation of “false news” was unsuccessful. PolitiFact said its claim that he followed federal guidelines “was largely wrong,” and other media organizations had issued him because of death in nursing homes, including ProPublica. The Associated Press estimates that 4,500 COVID-19 patients were sent to nursing homes.
Even The New York Times briefly stop the hate-Trump coverage to state that New York is at the center of the spread of the virus in part because Cuomo and others “are hampered by their own confusing guidance, heedless warnings, delayed decisions and political dissension.”
Cuomo was also extraordinary – and expensive – wrong about the need for tens of thousands of additional ventilators and hospital beds. Trump provided much of both, but most of the ventilators were not used and the Javits Center and Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort both sat empty even when the nursing home exploded in layers with COVID-19 patients.
Now that his daily show is over, maybe the governor will be honest with himself about what he did wrong. If so, he must summon courage to meet with Arlene Mullin, Maria Porteus, Janice Dean, Aida’s sisters and Haydee Pabey and other New Yorkers who have lost loved ones in nursing homes.
He needs to hear their story, and they deserve an honest answer from their governor. We all do it.