The Cuomo record 5 On COVID, his best and worst sides showed

The Cuomo record 5 On COVID, his best and worst sides showed

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Yesterday, the COVID death toll in New York State grew by 21 more New Yorkers, bringing the total to 43,376 people who died since March 2020, according to Gov. Cuomo’s daily update. The CDC puts the number at 54,012. The difference of 10,636 is that Cuomo’s lower tally only includes deaths in hospitals and nursing homes where there was a positive COVID test, while the federal standard is all deaths, regardless of location, where the presumed cause is COVID. Dead is dead and COVID is COVID. New York should fall in line and use the CDC measure.

That split, in how to tabulate the carnage, is part of Cuomo’s go-it-alone attitude, which both served him well and hurt him as he managed New York’s most deadly crisis. Today, his final day in office, will be his final update and an apt time to access his COVID performance, which is neither as stellar as he believes nor as hellacious as his foes, all but accusing him of personally killing people’s uncles or grandmothers, see it.

When COVID first arrived, it was like something from a science fiction movie, with everything shutting down and eerily empty streets in the world’s most dynamic city stalked by an unknown killer potentially everywhere. Instead of a steady Morgan Freeman as president, we had unstable, ill-informed Donald Trump.

It was Cuomo who filled that void, for New York and for much of the nation. When the crisis was at its worst, his calm demeanor, firm hand and decisive actions, generally grounded in science, gave the public thorough and thoughtful presentations every day without notes or fumbling.

He wasn’t always right. His actions or inactions in some cases cost lives, most prominently his wrongheaded order for nursing homes to accept residents who might spread COVID, a terrible error made much worse by his administration’s foolish effort to delay and obfuscate release of the data. The laudable goal was to protect hospitals then under tremendous strain and at risk of overflowing by discharging patients as soon as they stabilized, but COVID lurked within too many and it brought the disease directly to a vulnerable population.

Cuomo was also wrong not to move faster and shut things down with his PAUSE (Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone), and he stumbled on the reopening with kooky and often nonsensical, and decidedly unscientific, red and orange zones. Though he was the first in the nation to do so, he was wrong not to order masks quicker. But the list of officials who’ve gotten everything right with COVID has no names on it.

His prominence and New York’s prominence raised him higher and higher, as the president was prescribing bleach cocktails. This city, the greatest the world has ever seen, was stopped and trembled in fear. Sirens were constant, the morgues were overflowing. Cuomo found the right tone to reassure the terrified. That was a high public service.

He stood tallest and his leadership gave hope to millions in New York and elsewhere. Millions believed in him, and he believed in himself, perhaps too much at times.

A year ago last week, he was a prime-time speaker on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. The next day his ill-fated COVID book was announced. We immediately questioned the propriety and the timing and urged that any advance money go to COVID relief. He didn’t listen and it cost him far more than the earnings from the publisher. It felt like a victory lap in the middle of a race, a race with many hurdles. He trotted out a styrofoam mountain and commemorative poster that purported to congratulate the state on its achievement but actually celebrated Cuomo himself.

Despite the problems, in sum, Cuomo handled COVID well. The hospitals did not collapse. COVID was slowed and essentially stopped here. Masks are normalized here and the vaccines are being accepted at a high rate. Even after Cuomo was toppled, he rightly imposed a vaccine requirement on all health-care workers.

The current New York COVID death rate is one-tenth of Florida’s. One state is embracing masks and vaccines and reasonable restrictions designed to slow the spread — the other, not so much.

COVID, which was part of his downfall, was also Cuomo’s finest hour.

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