New York Governor Andrew Cuomo really does have “blood on his hands,” but thanks to the news media coverage, the public doesn’t seem to care.
In March, Cuomo, already overseeing the state that is the one U.S. local where the Wuhan virus could then be accurately described as out-of-control, adopted the policy of forcing nursing homes to take in elderly residents who were infected.
The edict horrified many medical authorities. Health experts warned this was a formula for disaster because such facilities didn’t have the ability to properly quarantine the infected. “This approach will introduce the highly contagious virus into more nursing homes. There will be more hospitalizations for nursing home residents who need ventilator care and ultimately, a higher number of deaths. Issuing such an order is a mistake and there is a better solution,” American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson protested in March after Cuomo’s order went into effect.
Richard Mollot, executive director of the New York’s Long Term Care Community Coalition, said that the policy “put many people in grave danger.” Professor David Grabowski at Harvard Medical School, whose field is public health, was aghast, telling NBC, “Nursing homes are working so hard to keep the virus out, and now we’re going to be introducing new COVID-positive patients?”
Yes, that was the plan, but it is difficult to fathom why anyone would think it was a good idea. A lot wasn’t and still isn’t understood about the virus, but one thing that has been known all year is that it is especially deadly for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
‘Hey, let’s put all those discharged old people who we know are infected into cramped, confined nursing homes where trying to quarantine anyone is hard and where we already know dubious management and care is rampant!’
In the imperious attitude that New York residents have become accustomed to, Cuomo claimed that it was “not his job” to help the privately-run nursing homes acquire necessary protective equipment to deal with the already infected seniors he was forcing them to accept. He dismissed all warnings. In April, asked by a reporter if anyone had objected to New York’s policy of forcing nursing homes to admit recently discharged Wuhan virus patients, Cuomo snapped, “They don’t have the right to object. That is the rule, and that is the regulation, and they have to comply with it.”
And so it came to be that Cuomo’s government put old people already suffering from the virus into understaffed nursing homes despite other, better, safer options, like nearly empty medical facilities New York has available, such as the Javits Center, or the Navy hospital ship Comfort.
Thoughtfully, New York did supply body bags—I guess you could call them “protective equipment— to many of the nursing homes as the deadly new residents arrived, and sure enough, the bags came in handy, as the results of Cuomo’s policy were exactly as the experts predicted. Over a third of all U.S. deaths from the pandemic have occurred in nursing homes, and New York’s long term care facilities lead the pack with over 5,000 fatalities. New Jersey is in second place with over 4,000, and the rest lag behind considerably. (A point of order is needed here. There is anecdotal evidence as well as justifiable suspicions that the virus is being used a default cause of death determination when other maladies could have been blamed as well.)
The Ethics Alarms position on judging governments and elected officials regarding their handling of the pandemic is lenient and forgiving. Since so little is known about the virus still, since the crisis is unprecedented, and because the political and public pressures from advocacy groups and social media are so daunting, every leader is in an impossible position and to an extent at the mercy of moral luck. Ethics Alarms’ sympathy does not extend to objectively reckless and stupid policies, or those that are dismissive of basic individual rights without adequate cause, like prohibiting “big box” stores from selling “non essential items,” or pulling down the nets on tennis courts. Cuomo’s order didn’t just defy expert advice, it defied common sense. When an elected official’s decision looks stupid at the outset and has exactly the effect that critics said it would have, that official deserves to be held accountable.
So far, however, Cuomo isn’t being held accountable; in fact, the opposite is true. The New Republic noted, “If a media darling has emerged during the coronavirus crisis, it’s Cuomo.” The New York Times’s Ben Smith wrote that Cuomo “has emerged as the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis.” Carl Bernstein told CNN that Gov. Cuomo has demonstrated “real leadership of the kind the president of the United States should have provided to the American people throughout this crisis, but hasn’t.”
(I’ll interject here that it is sad to see what a complete political hack Carl Bernstein has become in his post Post years. His “All the President’s Men” partner, Bob Woodward, has largely maintained respectable professional standards.)
Thus the inexplicably positive coverage (well, maybe not so inexplicable) has handed Cuomo a huge boost in the polls. Columnist Ross Barkan wrote, “Andrew Cuomo’s approval rating has surged beyond 80 percent. New York is the global epicenter for COVID-19 and there’s little the government did well to contain the virus in its early stages. 20,000+ people have died. It is truly one of the most remarkable PR coups of all-time.”
That’s not a coup, it’s a gift. Apparently the news media decided that it had to find some savior that the trapped Democratic Party could turn to when Joe Biden began sounding like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” or if Tara Reade produced so much evidence that she couldn’t even be ignored by Nancy Pelosi. Because Cuomo was clear and coherent in his daily press briefings (unlike other prominent officials who hold daily press briefings), he was the consensus choice.
Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!