It appears the canonization of St. Andrew of Albany may have been slightly hasty.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the unquestioned darling of the media’s coronavirus coverage, has finally mismanaged something badly enough that it’s drawn media criticism. By forcing nursing homes to take in patients infected with the coronavirus and released from the hospital regardless of their testing status, he’s played a role in the unusually high number of deaths in rest homes there.
This is funny, inasmuch as Cuomo has always been emphatic about doing his utmost to protect patients in nursing homes, which he called the “number one long-term consequence of this disease.”
“Nursing homes are the single biggest fear in all of this,” he said on April 18, according to the New York Daily News. “Vulnerable people in one place, it is the feeding frenzy for this virus.”
This is certainly accurate, and it’s something Cuomo shares no small part of the blame for. According to the Daily Caller, 5,433 individuals died of COVID-19 in New York’s nursing homes between March 1 and Wednesday — including 1,700 deaths the state didn’t initially report. Until recently, this number still didn’t include individuals who caught the virus in a nursing home and then died in a hospital.
On Sunday, Cuomo decided to address the deaths in his daily coronavirus news conference. In between using the occasion as an unfortunate opportunity to lapse into “mistakes were made“-speak, he hit upon a truth few on the left are willing to admit to.
“I have those conversations all day long with people who have lost people,” Cuomo said. “We lost 139 people yesterday in hospitals. Who is accountable for those 139 deaths? Well, how do we get justice for those families who had 139 deaths? What is justice? Who can we prosecute for those deaths? Nobody.
“Despite whatever you do, because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive,” Cuomo said.
“People are going to die by this virus,” he continued, adding that New York had the “best hospital system on the globe, I believe we have. Best doctors, best nurses who have responded like heroes, every medication, ventilators, the health system wants for nothing. We worked it out so we always had available beds. Nobody was deprived of a bed or medical coverage in any way.”
“Older people, vulnerable people are going to die from this virus. That is going to happen despite whatever you do. Because with all our progress as a society, we can’t keep everyone alive.”
But it isn’t just the old and vulnerable who are going to die — the young and healthy are going to die as well. Cuomo pivoted to the hypothetical example of the parents of a 40-year-old who passed away from the disease, asking him how their child could have died from something that’s supposed to inflict its worst on the elderly.
“You can have a situation where everyone did the right thing and everyone tried their best, and people still die,” Cuomo said.
It was at roughly this moment that every jobless, quarantined person in upstate New York cracked their flatscreens with their remotes.
Remember how he told us all, at the beginning of the lockdown, that “if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy?” Now that what he’s done has inarguably cost lives in his state’s rest homes, he’s telling us that people — particularly the old and vulnerable — will eventually die from coronavirus.
If this was just about excusing his own bad choices, I suppose it would be understandable. However, there’s a word that courses throughout this part of Cuomo’s answer, implicit but unspoken: tradeoffs.
Everything is about tradeoffs. In situations like this, you balance a vast constellation of knowns and unknowns, trying to find the best solution. Sometimes you get things right, sometimes you get them wrong. Sometimes, you’ll never know.
In the case of Cuomo’s decision to force COVID-positive patients on nursing homes, we can safely say it was wrong. It was designed to free up hospital beds in advance of an overwhelming wave of patients that never materialized. In terms of everything else Cuomo and other politicians have done, that’ll long be the source of much debate.
However, in almost all respects, Cuomo has been unflaggingly cautious — I’d argue overcautious — in the face of the pandemic. His entire state has ground to a halt and even then, New York City remains the global locus of the disease while the rest of the state is still frozen under the same order used to control the spread of the coronavirus in downtown Manhattan. Meanwhile, his state has rotted, both economically and socially, to a frightening extent in just two months. He called his lockdown policy “New York on Pause.” When he presses the play button, I can guarantee he’ll find the plot significantly changed.
And people will still die, as Cuomo pointed out. Other politicians would be savaged for saying this, but the New York governor’s sainthood is only slightly tarnished at this point and the media is still willing to treat him with the same uncritical eye on the nursing home situation with which he apparently treats himself.
Looking at the larger picture, though, we’re still going to see an unfortunate number of deaths before the virus is eradicated — and we can’t stay locked down in perpetuity.
If Trump said this, you needn’t ask where the feeding frenzy would be.
Cuomo should be held to account for hyperventilating so much about the number of hospital beds in his state that he inadvertently — but very predictably — helped create the nursing home epidemic we see. Yes, he’s right that “nobody” can be prosecuted for it, but that doesn’t mean they can’t face serious scrutiny — particularly the ones who made the decision to send sick patients back into hospitals. Beyond that, however, there was a deeper truth to be gleaned. Too bad the same media that canonized St. Andrew for the asperity of his lockdown won’t be looking for it.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.