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Testimony In Cuomo Transcripts Shows Need For Investigation Into COVID Policies

There is a lot of damning testimony in the transcripts released last week by state Attorney General Letitia James of interviews a team of independent investigators did earlier this year with 10 of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accusers, plus the governor himself.

But one interview, in particular, caught our attention.

A former high-ranking state Health Department official described micromanaging of the state’s COVID-19 response in terms that is worthy of its own investigation, as was suggested last week by Bill Hammond of the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Rather than allowing statewide test results be routed through a reporting system so that local health department officials saw them first, Cuomo wanted the results routed through his office first. Early on, that change delayed quarantine notices from local health departments, though it ended as commercial labs began handling the testing.

Perhaps most damning, though, is state health officials being prohibited from working with county and New York City health officials through unofficial meetings, online meetings and sending out guidance.

“We had to stop doing webinars with them,” the employee said. “We couldn’t collaborate with them on evaluations of different problems and projects.”

It was bad enough to limit work with rural health departments, but to limit the work between state officials and New York City, which was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, borders on being inexcusable.

State legislators need to look further into how the pandemic was handled, though not necessarily to give Cuomo another black eye. A thorough investigation is needed to make sure the state does it better next time – including making sure collaboration is the order of the day rather than burnishing a governor’s brand.

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