After weeks of criticizing President Trump, often unfairly, for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times published a lengthy and rather damning piece on Wednesday detailing the belated and at times counterproductive response of the two most prominent Democratic leaders in New York: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. For, finally, providing a more even-handed critique of the Democratic politicians calling the shots at the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., some of the Times’ readers have thanked the paper, though many made a point of noting that the critique was coming rather late in the game.
The Times report has been given a conveniently equivocal title — “How Delays and Unheeded Warnings Hindered New York’s Virus Fight” — which fails to directly point the finger at de Blasio or Cuomo, but its subtitle better summarizes the content of the piece: “The federal response was chaotic. Even so, the state’s and city’s own efforts failed to keep pace with the outbreak, The Times found.” Even that more direct criticism, however, does not accurately present just how badly the Times found that the two Democrats initially botched their response.
The report begins with the first confirmed case of the virus in New York City on March 1 — and both Cuomo and de Blasio vowing to take action that, the Times learned, was never taken (formatting adjusted):
A 39-year-old woman took Flight 701 from Doha, Qatar, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in late February, the final leg of her trip home to New York City from Iran. A week later, on March 1, she tested positive for the coronavirus, the first confirmed case in New York City of an outbreak that had already devastated China and parts of Europe. The next day, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, appearing with Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference, promised that health investigators would track down every person on the woman’s flight. But no one did.
“For many days after the first positive test, as the coronavirus silently spread throughout the New York region, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio and their top aides projected an unswerving confidence that the outbreak would be readily contained,” the Times reports.
There would be cases, they repeatedly said, but New York’s hospitals were some of the best in the world. Plans were in place. Responses had been rehearsed during “tabletop” exercises. After all, the city had been here before — Ebola, Zika, the H1N1 virus, even Sept. 11.
“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”
While the Times makes sure to point to the federal response as also hampering New York’s attempts to combat the spreading virus, the picture is painfully clear by the end of the piece: Cuomo and de Blasio blew it, and New York has suffered as a result.
As Hot Air’s John Sexton highlights, the Times’ readers are thanking the paper for finally calling out the Democratic leaders. A few examples from a flood of similar responses in the Times’ comments section:
- “This is an honest article about the worst area affected in the U.S. by the new CoronaVirus. I’ve seen countless articles about Trump’s incompetence and while all true, NY leaders have to take ownership of their part in this disaster and learn from it, because there will likely be a second wave of cases at some point.”
- “Wow somebody FINALLY acknowledged that Cuomo/De Blasio waited way too long for lockdown/shelter in place efforts. Being good at mitigation and communication does not and should not excuse Cuomo’s earlier inaction. Thank you for true journalism.”
- “It is good to see the Times do a tough story like this. It is a needed corrective to the daily spotlight-basking Governor Cuomo revels in, when in fact he and other leaders, especially the President, were slow to respond to this crisis. Other governors and mayors, most notably those in California, Ohio, and Washington, set the standard for early, effective response. They personify good government.”
- “There is nothing to explain New York’s skyrocketing rates of infections and deaths other than mismanagement at the highest levels. Cuomo demonstrated an early hubris…now he is admitting his mistakes and playing contrite. De Blasio was always out of his league.”
- “Thank you for finally documenting the mistakes made by New York officials, including Mayor De Blasio, whose performance has been dismal. Yes, Trump shares blame, but it’s not all about Trump, and the truth is that everyone – Dem and Repub – were caught flat-footed by the crisis. A common enemy we should be blaming is the China government, which repeatedly lied and covered by the extent of the problem, aided by the corrupt WHO.”