New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has long bragged about New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, crafting a foam mountain and writing a book in attempts to prove the state had conquered the pandemic. But the state’s COVID-19 numbers have since summited a far larger mountain and its vaccination rate lags behind 19 other states’, all while Cuomo continues to sidestep top health officials, The New York Times reports.
New York health officials spent years preparing vaccination plans with local health departments, spurred largely by bioterrorism fears after 9/11. But Cuomo abandoned that plan in favor of having hospitals coordinate vaccinations. Cuomo met with “hospital executives, outside consultants, and a top hospital lobbyist” to make those plans, the Times reports; New York’s first vaccine ended up going to a nurse from that lobbyist’s hospital. In the first few weeks of the vaccine’s rollout, the state ended up canceling appointments because they didn’t have supplies to meet the demand.
Current and former health officials have meanwhile felt shunted throughout the process, with one former official telling the Times that “morale certainly was and continues to be at an all-time low.” Nine top state health officials have even resigned or retired throughout the pandemic.
Cuomo even sidelined the New York City Health Department’s plans to expand childhood vaccination procedures to the whole city population. In an October letter, Cuomo told the Trump administration to only work with the state in coordinating vaccine distribution, one city official told the Times. This “extensive red tape and unnecessary rigidity … made an extraordinarily difficult task all the more challenging,” a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the Times.
There’s no way of knowing if New York City’s plan, or the one experts spent years organizing, would’ve performed better. But while Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa contends oversubscriptions for vaccine appointments mean their system worked just fine, one epidemiologist says hospitals were never built to handle this kind of public health crisis. Read more at The New York Times.