Overall, Gov. Cuomo has earned high marks for his performance during the coronavirus crisis. He’s dutifully laid out the facts every day, giving New Yorkers a precise picture of where things stand via hard numbers on new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. He’s delivered the numbers in measured, calm tones. He’s made things personal and relatable with references to his own life and family. He’s advocated strongly for the state’s best interests, especially when it comes to the need for resources from the federal government. He’s laid out a path for reopening the state one sector and section at a time, and even though we believe much of it could be done more quickly and still safely, there’s a logical consistency to his plan that makes sense.
This all stands in sharp contrast, of course, to President Trump’s scattered, mercurial, cold and sloppy performance. But that’s not the point here.
The point is that Cuomo has had one major failing in the crisis, a deadly mistake that may have cost thousands of lives: the order to place COVID-positive patients coming from hospitals into nursing homes. Though it’s impossible to know for sure, that move — made after it was well-known that COVID-19 was especially deadly to seniors, particularly in nursing homes — may have cost thousands of lives. As of May 12, the state had reported 5,562 deaths in nursing homes and adult care facilities since the crisis began, 2,864 confirmed to have been caused by the virus and 2,698 presumed to have been. That’s horrific.
Cuomo reversed his March 25 order on May 10, also ordering that staff be tested twice a week. We welcome the move, though he should have done it much earlier and taken full responsibility. Previously, he has deflected blame onto the nursing homes and directed state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate them. If she finds any wrongdoing, hold them accountable. But their problems, driven by a lack of funds, have long been known. It’s Cuomo who owns this, alongside his otherwise strong leadership in this crisis.