Independent probe finds Cuomo COVID response ‘engendered public mistrust’

An independent investigation into New York’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic found that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) response “engendered public mistrust” and sowed confusion.

The investigation, commissioned by current Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), found that Cuomo’s administration and its lack of communication with agencies and facilities, particularly nursing homes, across the state resulted in resources wasted and mistrust among individuals.

The report, released Friday by The Olson Group, noted that New York State was frequently categorized as the United States’s “epicenter” for the disease.

“COVID-19 rapidly spread through New York City and across the state, testing every facet of emergency preparedness, public health, human services, and disaster response and recovery,” the report said.

New York was presumed to be one of the most prepared states for an infectious disease outbreak, investing in the development of pandemic plans and bolstering its healthcare establishments, the report noted.

The report argued that New York was prepared for other health emergencies, like the outbreak of H1N1, but as COVID took over, Cuomo moved away from the state’s established plan and toward the “promotion of ‘top down’ initiatives, often based on outside expertise.”

Cuomo, who resigned from office in 2021 amid sexual harassment allegations, issued “hundreds of executive orders” to mitigate the spread of the virus, the group said.

Cuomo particularly drew criticism for his handling of nursing facilities and the impact the pandemic had on the elderly. The group found that policies on how nursing homes should handle COVID were “rushed and uncoordinated.” Still, the report acknowledged that fatality rates in New York were consistent with the rest of the country.

The Cuomo administration was scrutinized for its policy that required nursing homes to readmit recovering COVID-19 patients to avoid hospitals from being overwhelmed. State fatality figures significantly undercounted the deaths, The Associated Press reported.

Cuomo’s spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, defended the governor’s approach in a statement to the AP.

“While this report cuts through the political garbage that has consumed the nursing home issue and points out how circumstances were consistent nationwide, it’s ridiculous to suggest that this pandemic response be treated the same as H1N1 or Legionnaires outbreaks,” the statement said.

Earlier this week, Cuomo was called to testify before the House committee investigating the pandemic about his alleged failure to cooperate with an investigation into the state’s nursing home policies during COVID.

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