The former New York governor says that people no longer trust the government
Former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, at one point considered a hero for leading that state’s Covid response, has predicted that he would struggle to implement similar pandemic restrictions if another virus swept through the country.
In a recent episode of his podcast “As A Matter of Fact”, Cuomo discussed the Covid-19 pandemic with Dr Leana Wen, a Public Health Professor at George Washington University. The former governor said that, in a future pandemic, “the amount of compliance…would be much, much lower than it was in the beginning of Covid because people do not trust the government — especially on this issue.”
“I believe if the government were to now say ‘we just made a finding that there’s a new virus and everyone should do X,Y and Z,’” he said, “the amount of compliance with X, Y and Z would be much, much lower”.
The former governor noted that resistance from “people who just don’t listen” would be a “complicating factor” in enforcing restrictions. Discussing his time in office during Covid-19, Cuomo admitted that his powers were limited in what he could tell people to do. “If they said ‘I’m not wearing a mask’ there is nothing I could do about it. Or ‘you must close your private business’. ‘I won’t’. Well, there was nothing I could do about it.”
Cuomo went on to praise New Yorkers for their response to his pandemic restrictions, saying that it was “extraordinary” that people had “acted with…uniformity” because he had “no enforcement capacity”.
Such was the former New York governor’s popularity during the height of the pandemic that his approval rating soared to 87% by the end of March 2020. His interviews with brother Chris Cuomo became a mainstay on CNN’s Prime Time, regularly attracting millions of viewers for his appearances, but they were also criticised for their perceived chumminess.
The cable network even went so far as to compare Cuomo’s briefings on the virus to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “fireside chats”. Then in October 2020, Cuomo wrote a book on the subject, ‘American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic’, netting himself $5.1 million in the process.
Though Cuomo’s record on Covid-19 won praise at the time, it came to be seen less favourably as time has passed. The governor was initially bullish, declaring that “we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries” before pivoting to panic, introducing a tough lockdown. He prohibited all social gatherings, but almost 80,000 deaths and millions of infections resulted. Poorer hospitals lacked resources and staff wore bin bags in lieu of surgical equipment.
Nursing homes were particularly hard hit, and accusations of a cover up of the death toll eroded Cuomo’s credibility. He has also been accused of petty infighting with New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and a patchy vaccine rollout. Eventually, he resigned from office in August 2021 over allegations of sexual misconduct.