As we wind down the Year of COVID, it's time to reflect on the uneven responses our political class provided in dealing with the virus. Here's a recap:
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
This was a tough one given so many nominees. First, there's California Gov. Gavin Newsom. He imposed some of the strictest lockdowns in the nation, but the state's COVID cases exploded nonetheless. He hypocritically ordered his constituents to stay home while he was dining on a $1,000 dinner that violated his own orders. He lectured us to "follow the science" yet banned outdoor dining in defiance of the science. No wonder he's subject to a recall.
Then there's Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who purportedly "followed the science" by allowing lottery tickets to be sold, but not paint or tomato seeds.
But the winner has to be New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. He put the teachers union's priorities ahead of the children's by closing the schools. He outlawed indoor dining, then gave the OK for outdoor dining in sub-freezing temperatures, while banning patrons from using the restaurants' bathrooms. Meanwhile, he looked the other way as rioters burned down the city. He and his feuding governor are responsible for the largest exodus of residents of any jurisdiction in the nation.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
While blue state governors were crashing their economies with kneejerk shutdowns, Gov. Desantis resisted the pressure of the liberal media to follow that path of ruin.
He proved that a rational leader could protect the vulnerable and still keep people employed. Unlike Cuomo, who caused thousands of deaths with his nursing home policy, DeSantis provided early testing and isolation of the nursing home residents. Despite Florida's crucial hospitality industry being crushed by the virus, DeSantis' budget shows a deficit one-fifth the shortfall looming in New York.
Best and worst combo:
Andrew Cuomo and President Trump
Two politicians each exemplified both the best and worst of the year's COVID response.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo received warranted early praise for his commanding, informative news conferences at the outbreak of the pandemic. We were starving for details and Cuomo delivered. Unlike Trump, he didn't sugarcoat what we were facing.
But Cuomo, like Trump, has always been a politician who could deliver the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. His awful, illogical decision to force nursing homes to take in COVID-positive hospital patients lit the fuse on an explosion of unnecessary deaths within these facilities. What's so galling is his order actually prohibited the homes from testing the patients and relegated them to their untimely deaths as thousands of beds sat empty in a nearby floating hospital provided by the presidedent. His blatant partisan hatred and aversion to giving Trump any credit led him to forsake this potential lifesaving offer.
Trump deserves enormous credit for Operation Warp Speed in expediting the vaccine's arrival. No, it was not all due to the innovative drug companies and their brilliant scientists. Trump's private sector "get it done now" mentality pushed the envelope by eliminating unnecessary and redundant bureaucratic delays. Most importantly, his decision to fund vaccine production on a parallel track to its development saved valuable months in bringing it to market.
But as good as Cuomo's press events were early on, that's how bad Trump's were. A frightened public wanted facts and guidance, not ridiculous feuding with reporters, which gave the impression the president once again thought the issue was all about him. His fear of stock market losses led him to downplay what was an obviously harsh future ahead that was going to require sacrifice and a buying in from the public to take proper precautions. While he never told anyone to not wear masks, his cavalier attitude about covering up sure gave that impression. He turned masks into a partisan issue, as though forsaking a mask was virtue signaling about your love of freedom. It was a brutal unforced error that contributed to his electoral defeat, and more importantly, led many to avoid masking up for far too long.
Worst policy decision:
Giving unemployed workers more money staying home than when they were working.
This crippled the ability of many businesses to obtain needed help. Second place goes to the Trump administration's failure to lock in an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine when it was available. The government's delay led the drugmaker selling the supply elsewhere around the world. The latest deal gets us additional doses, but not for many months down the road.
Best policy decision:
The first stimulus and the Paycheck Protection Program.
These programs kept businesses and families afloat in the early stages of the outbreak. They kept employees on the payroll until the inevitable rebound kicked in.
Let's hope that in the upcoming year, our officials will implement policies that indicate we've learned from the hits and misses of 2020.
Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of "The Steve Levy Radio Show." He is the author of "Solutions to America's Problems" and "Bias in the Media." www.SteveLevy.info, Twitter @SteveLevyNY, firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Steve Levy's Reports — More Here.
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