Apologize? Look, I have said repeatedly, we made a mistake in creating the void.” — Governor Andrew Cuomo
Here we are, Day 360, holding the Governor of New York responsible for his negligent handling of the pandemic. We say we could have had a different outcome, if we had all the information. This is what we say, now, a year later, our exhausted hands gripping more information. As it has apparently been made illegal to hold nursing homes or the government accountable for the number of deaths caused by the tragic rush of Covid-19 through the elderly population in New York State and elsewhere, we are moving into the court of public opinion. Now it is our decision, our intuition, our inner moral compass, which is to show us whether we indeed find wrongdoing here. Was there intent to kill? Or just an onslaught of unprecedented reality?
One of the benefits to a unilateral approach to decision making is that one can make decisions fast, without the need for negotiation. And if one is to remember back, to days 1-10, or 10-50, or 50-111, we were all pretty occupied with climbing that Covid mountain. We were occupied with surviving, if we were not indeed sick or even dying. Who is to really say that the legislature would have done it better? As I recall, Governor Cuomo was the only one doing ANYTHING back in February and March of 2020. Building the airplane as we were flying it, marching into battle with the unknown beast. Being a leader when the world needed one. Taking time each day to recognize the number of lives lost, even if they were lost by accident. Even if they didn’t have to die, if we had made different decisions.
Hindsight is 20/20 because by then we have all the information. If one is short tens of thousands of ICU beds, if the New England Patriots are flying a personal plane over to China to pick up masks, if there are no tests to give….how else can one function other than by emergency triage? This is not to say that lives lost by accident are by definition dispensable, or to ignore the sad fact that many people died in pain and alone this last year. A life lost is a life lost. This is human legacy and heritage and now our collective trauma to heal.
If you’re going to heal, says President Biden, You have to remember.
It is our task to remember all of this. The good and the bad. Governor Andrew Cuomo took the helm when the ship was being tossed about in a sea of unforeseen chaos, and I honestly believe he did his best. I am sure he could have done things better; we could all be a bit more perfect. But for every life he lost by negligence or ignorance or policy in the nursing homes, is that not one more he saved by his attitude of communal inclusion and participation and fortitude? Did he not also set up hotlines about domestic violence and mental health issues amongst all our other necessities? Why are we spending more time chastising Governor Cuomo for the nursing home deaths than we are Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota about her regulatory void aka “personal freedom” that subsequently spread Covid-19 throughout the Midwest after the motorcycle rally in Sturgis and ravaged countless communities?
I do not know the Governor personally, so there is the chance that my personal judgment is wrong. But there is also the human tendency to want to place blame, find reasons and explanation for all the things that cause us to suffer. Getting angry doesn’t bring back someone who died. It just defers the pain. For all the little that I know about Governor Cuomo, I can imagine that this situation is keeping him up at night. Not because of its political consequence, but because he is questioning his own guilt. Because he is sitting there among us in the jury, and wondering if he is going to indict himself.
“It made sense at the time…”
How often to we say that, after the fact? Because of course, the facts can only really be present after the moment has passed. During the Governor’s daily briefings last year, I noticed he seemed to cling to ‘the facts,’ appearing almost offended when they changed: “First they told us the virus was coming from China…Then we find out it’s really coming from Europe!”
The thing is, “they” only told us was what they knew. Which happened to be wrong.
So maybe this is the conclusion. The facts, and the Governor who followed them, turned out to be wrong. Does that make him a bad person? Does that make him unfit to serve in office? Does that undo all the good that he has done? Or does that just make him as real and imperfect as the rest of us?
He claimed responsibility from the beginning, telling us to blame him. So now we are.
Governor, you were wrong. Covid patients should not have been admitted into nursing homes. Nursing homes should not have felt pressure to receive these patients. More oversight should have already been in place prior to the pandemic to control the quality of care across the network of all nursing homes. These are things that we now know.
Reparations should be made. I trust that you will make them. And also, just for the record, thank you for what you did right.