The Corner

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Late-Deflating Reputations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a news conference at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site at William Reid Apartments in Brooklyn, N.Y., January 23, 2021. (Mary Altaffer/Pool via Reuters)

I wonder if the public record will ever accurately reflect the performance of Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York during the pandemic. Like many, I initially found him surprisingly leaderly at the start of the crisis. And subsequently on “The Editors” podcast and elsewhere, I’ve urged charity in judging his decisions early in the pandemic. Last March, it was conventional wisdom that enormous temporary hospitals would have to be erected for the sick in major cities. London was building one. New York started one in the Javits Center. There were days when the number of dead was appalling and even caring for the dead was straining the system.

But, the latest report shows that once the state of New York figured out the disastrous results of their policy of returning sick COVID patients to nursing homes in order to free up hospital beds, there was a concerted government effort to deflect. And there’s Cuomo’s continued record of criticizing governors who in fact made decisions that turned out much better. Again, where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?

Similarly, we were told that Europe and Germany in particular had admirably competent responses to the pandemic. And indeed, the case numbers and deaths in Europe were much lower than in the United States. But, now Europe has clearly botched its provision of vaccines. And they are scrambling.

At this stage, the United States, the United Kingdom, and particularly Israel are surging ahead towards a COVID-19 endgame. Meanwhile, European governments are being told that their crisis is likely to last into next winter at the minimum.

I’m curious about the media’s investment in these storylines. Can the media turn on Cuomo after all their investment in his story? It seems easier to turn in regard to Europe and the United States because Trump is gone. The vaccine’s eventual success in America can be — and probably will be — attributed mostly to Joe Biden.

But I think the credit belongs to our character. Americans are too unruly to be locked down, and too inventive and rich not to come up with some kind of technological fix for our problems.

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