New York Coronavirus Leadership Exacerbating National Spread [OPINION]
"Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the speck out of thy brother's eye." — Matthew 7:5
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been a very open critic of the federal response of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Trump Administration. NYC, though, has become the epicenter of the nation's battle against the coronavirus.
At the time of this writing, New York has 26,376 of the nation's 55,148 confirmed COVID-19 cases, which means New York has 48 percent of the Americans afflicted. Only China, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Iran have more cases than the Empire State.
While in some ways the comparison from state to state can be unfair, perhaps elected officials should not be so quick to point the finger to only find five more pointed right back at them.
If it is fair to make accurate or inaccurate accounts and blame the Trump White House for the lack of preparedness for the nation, let's also look at the decisions made by the powers in the state of New York.
New York City, the nation's largest school district, was among the very last of America's school districts to close the public schools, despite outrage from the medical community and the teachers. Mayor de Blasio's decision was met with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who defended this consequential inaction by stating that the schools were difficult to close because the schools are default daycare for many New Yorkers.
All the things we now know to be true, even as New York ignored the measures taken elsewhere are an undeniable factor. With the lack of spacing, cross-contaminating continued as most of America began practicing the recommended tactics to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Perhaps the governor could have done far earlier what most other governors in his region did with far fewer outbreak problems: advise non-essential workplaces to send their employees home. Shelter-in-place and daycare problems solved.
There's also the "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" attitude of Mayor de Blasio. Governor Cuomo ordered all health and fitness centers closed by March 15. This did not prevent de Blasio from dragging his police detail and staffers into the Brooklyn YMCA on March 16, a place where according to one gym employee quoted in the New York Post, fellow fitness enthusiasts were coughing and sneezing — and a mentally ill person was walking around touching the equipment, a gym source said.
“It’s crazy that he made his staff and detail come with him to the gym and expose them like that,” the source said.
The mayor said he wanted to go to a place that "keeps him grounded" one last time.
Don't we all wish to indulge in a place for our own reasons, Mayor de Blasio? The indefensible, selfish and immature decision-making process is what I see and I'm not alone. The Post is describing a staff "revolt" in City Hall over de Blasio's surreal leadership thus far.
Governor Cuomo unwisely refused to order New Yorkers to not travel. While today, one in 1,000 New Yorkers test positive for the disease – eight to 10 times the national average – many have fled the city and state.
Affluent Manhattanites with places in the Hamptons have ignored advisories to stay put and minimize cross-contaminating communities, and the Long Island year-round residents have taken great exception to this. As they take flight from the city, mostly untested, they selfishly seem to be willing to potentially carry COVID-19 to areas with few cases.
Not only that, but they are also hoarding the materials at the local supermarkets out there which are stocked for the typically expected population of the winter.
If ever there was a chance to corral an area with concentrated cases, New York is it. The problem with enacting strong orders like limiting travel is that Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio both have political ambitions and neither relishes the idea of angering their voters, even under this scenario.
Even remote places like Massachusetts' island of Nantucket aren't safe from the New Yorker whose only fate they seem to be concerned with is their own. Islanders are very concerned with the uptick of private jets flying in from New York and BMWs and Mercedes with New York plates filling the streets over the last few weeks.
Nantucket has one hospital with about 25 beds, and only three ventilators.
Speaking of equipment shortages, Mayor de Blasio is taking to any microphone that will have him to complain about the lack of federally provided, vital equipment being sent to New York City. He seems to leave out the fact in his complaint that he waited until March 6 (two months after the outbreak in China) to secure a request for masks, sanitizers, and the like.
Vice President Mike Pence has confirmed that currently, FEMA is sending 2,000 more ventilators to New York with others planned to be deployed there as soon as possible.
Governor Cuomo is blaming President Trump for the lack of ventilators being made available to New York, but the president has put the finger right back on Cuomo by pointing out his decision in 2015 to not purchase ventilators when the opportunity came to make that decision.
Trump cited New York newspapers, and his remark was confirmed by former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey, who recalled the chance to purchase 16,000 ventilators for the state to prepare for future pandemics.
“It’s a lot of money, but in hindsight, spending half a percent of the budget to prepare for a pandemic was the right thing to do," she said.
Cuomo's office provided a short statement regarding Trump's remark, saying only the task force never made the recommendation for ventilators.
When Fox News found contrary information about the New York state public health official's panel recommendations, they found this:
The task force discovered that were 7,250 ventilators in New York hospitals and about 1,900 in nursing homes – with most of them already in use. Even with the state’s own stockpile, that task force said there were only 2,800 total ventilators available, despite health officials’ warnings that a major outbreak could require 18,600 New Yorkers to be on the machines each week during the crisis’ peak.
So what Cuomo's administration decided to do in reality was to not purchase the recommended amount and instead create a "priority system" and to categorize those who would be put on a ventilator – red being the direst, blue being the least – and the plan included an assigned triage officer, or “death panel” as Trump characterized the plan, to make the life-or-death decisions.
Perhaps Cuomo could learn a few lessons from our own governor here in Massachusetts. Charlie Baker acted earlier, more measured and more attentively and has reserved any internal criticism he may have for the president for the sake of the nation's confidence and for unity.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at ken.pittman@