Joe Biden recently repeated his prediction that another 200,000 Americans could perish from the COVID-19 virus before the year is out. Is now the time for back-slapping as though the crisis were winding down? At least one Democrat think tank believes it's appropriate.

On Tuesday, the Boston-based Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate will present the 2020 Inspired Leadership Award to Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker and New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, "in recognition of their steadfast guidance during the global COVID-19 pandemic."

Cuomo's handling of the COVID crisis as it relates to New York's nursing homes has drawn fire from even some within his party. Cuomo has been accused of seriously undercounting the number of nursing home patients to die from the virus, which prompted a Justice Department investigation.

NBC affiliate 4 New York reported in October that Cuomo has "faced unrelenting criticism" over his handling of nursing homes. The station cites a "controversial March 25 order that sent thousands of recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals into nursing homes at the height of the pandemic."

Worcester's public health medical director Dr. Michael P. Hirsh recently told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette testing and caring for patients in Massachusetts nursing homes is sorely lacking.

"There is no system in place to routinely test for the disease inside long-term care facilities. Consequently, there is no way to know who should be quarantined to protect others from potentially contracting this disease," he said.

The Baker Administration says 66 percent of the total COVID deaths in Massachusetts occurred in nursing homes.

Hirsh says the Massachusetts National Guard should be deployed to test nursing home residents so as not to have a repeat of what happened at the Holyoke Soldiers Home, where nearly 80 people died early in the crisis.

Remember, too, that Baker and Cuomo have destroyed the economies in their states while crushing businesses, closing schools, and imposing unconstitutional mandates on such things as attendance at houses of worship.

Baker and Cuomo should respectfully decline any awards in their honor at this point. Let's save the back-patting and atta-boys until after all of this is over.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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