Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivered some of his sharpest criticism of President Trump and his administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic on Thursday, repeatedly calling the federal government’s response incompetent and accusing the president of politicizing and lying about the crisis.
As New York continues to register a statewide infection rate at or just below 1 percent amid vigorous testing, the governor pointed to the previous day’s national Covid-19 death toll of 1,091. During a press briefing on Thursday, the governor contrasted that statistic with that of China, from where the novel coronavirus emerged, which on the same day recorded one death, and those of Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden, where deaths ranged from zero to 37.
“How do you justify that?” the governor repeatedly asked. “All those other countries had it first, they had it worse than we had it.” This, he said, “is why the American people don’t trust the federal government on Covid.” A “serious question,” he said, is “what did President Trump know, and when did he know it?”
He referred to a January memo from Peter Navarro, the president’s senior economic adviser, to the National Security Council, and another sent to the president in February. Both warned that the pandemic’s toll could surpass a half-million Americans and cost close to $6 trillion. “They never answered that White House memo from Peter Navarro back in January that predicted all of this. And Peter Navarro was a senior White House aid with direct connection to the president.” As recently revealed in recordings made last winter, the president publicly downplayed the pandemic while privately acknowledging its seriousness to the journalist and author Bob Woodward.
During the press briefing, the governor announced that he and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan are calling for Congress to investigate the Trump administration’s politicization of the pandemic response. "It is an inarguable fact that the United States has had the worst response to the Covid-19 virus of any nation in the world,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday. “Nearly 7 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 200,000 Americans have been killed by it -- both more than any other country. The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of this tragedy is the direct result of President Trump and the federal government's deceit, political self-dealing, and incompetence.”
It was revealed last week that political appointees at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, over the strong objection of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “published the indefensible guidance that said people without symptoms did not need to get tested for Covid,” the governor’s statement continued. “Coupled with the agency's abrupt reversal earlier this week on guidance related to the airborne transmission of the virus, it's increasingly clear that the President and his advisers are trying to undermine the credibility of experts whose facts run counter to the administration's political agenda.”
While he praised New Yorkers’ “extraordinary” actions in reducing coronavirus transmission, 500 people are hospitalized statewide, which he said represents an increase of 10 from the previous day. The number of patients in an intensive care unit, and those who are intubated, also rose, each by four. Two New York residents died of Covid-19 on Sept. 23, he said.
State officials are watching western New York and a few neighborhoods in New York City, where “there’s been some ticks” -- rising numbers of infections -- “but overall we are still okay,” he said. “A few caution flags that we’re watching.”