Bad Diagnosis NY health official reveals more Cuomo failures in handling COVID pandemic

Former New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/TNS)

The following editorial was written by the Editorial Board of the New York Daily News:

The most enlightening part of the testimony transcripts from the probe into allegations of sexual misconduct against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, finally released last week by Attorney General Leticia James, has little to do with Cuomo’s alleged harassment.

Sworn statements from former Health Department epidemiology director Dr. Elizabeth Dufort, described in the document as State Entity Employee -2, draw a damning picture of another scandal dogging Cuomo when he unceremoniously departed: the state’s response to the pandemic.

Prior to giving him a nationally televised COVID-19 nasal test, Dufort promised backstage that she would be “gentle but accurate,” prompting Cuomo’s joke that he’d “heard that before” and he joked on camera that “you make that gown look good.” The Aug. 3 report overreached, judging that sexual harassment. The minor incident should not have been included in the report.

But it turns out that Dufort’s testimony was fortuitous after all, as she did not mince words in describing, under oath, how Cuomo’s legendary paranoia and effort to control every aspect of his administration’s functioning and public image damaged health professionals’ efforts to coordinate amongst each other, respond quickly to changing circumstances, and develop guidance on dealing with the deadly pathogen even as it made New York City its global epicenter.

For example, she claimed that state health officials were “not allowed to collaborate with our peers in the local health departments,” a puzzling posture under any circumstance but particularly as local health officials were begging for any help they could get. Meanwhile, Cuomo was all too happy to publicly soak up credit for his supposedly steady hand in leading the state through the crisis.

The claims are a reminder that, though the public conversation has centered around the ongoing inquiries into Cuomo’s alleged predations and abuse of power, the former governor stands accused of much more than that. From obfuscating nursing home deaths to obstructing health authorities, when New Yorkers needed leadership most, our governor wasn’t always focused on the science as he constantly said.

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