Cuomo under fire

Governor Cuomo has likely had the toughest month of his life – but what should we really be criticizing about his actions?

Graphic by Emma Liu ’22/Staff

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has found himself in hot water after reports of covering up nursing home deaths have surfaced. A top aide to the Governor revealed to state lawmakers that the Cuomo administration intentionally withheld and manipulated statistics to downplay the severity of COVID-19 deaths within nursing homes. While disturbing, I must admit that I did not initially see the controversy in all of this. Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned us that nursing homes are one of the most deadly environments for the virus. Those who kept their loved ones in nursing homes usually do not have the means to move them anywhere else, so even if accurate data had been reported, the number of nursing home patients, and consequent COVID-19 deaths, likely would have remained the same. While this may be true, it still does not explain why Cuomo would hide the data. Let’s think. What is controversial enough to make the Governor cover up thousands of nursing home deaths? Maybe the fact that his reckless decisions are the reason the death toll is so high.

In March of last year, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept patients who tested positive for COVID-19. During that period, infection rates within the state’s nursing homes dramatically increased. The Governor insists that this was the result of insufficient precautions taken by nursing homes’ staff, and although it is impossible to know the exact causes, it is far from an unlikely conclusion that COVID patients within nursing homes may have contributed to this increase in cases. This order was obviously detrimental to the overall well-being of nursing homes (and was thankfully revoked in early May), but this was at the beginning of the pandemic.  Top health experts expressed little concern over the virus, likening it to the flu, and discouraged the usage of masks, stating that they would be ineffective and possibly increase transmission. Looking back now, we (rightfully) criticize these decisions, but we should also keep in mind that we had very limited information. Our decisions were based on a flawed understanding of the virus, and we should forgive these mistakes that were made under ill-informed circumstances. While Cuomo’s March mandate can be excused as one of these ill-informed decisions, his consistent disregard of science cannot. 

Despite garnering national attention for his criticisms of Trump “not listening to the experts,” Cuomo fails to apply those same standards to himself. From throwing out established vaccine distribution plans, to sporadically opening and closing the state, Cuomo has continued to put his own agenda before the advice of scientists and, by extension, the well-being of the state. How does he justify this? By undermining the experts, questioning their credibility, and promulgating the idea that he knows best. We did not tolerate this hubris in the likes of Trump, and we shouldn’t now.