EDITORIAL: What he did

HOW WOULD ANY OF US have known? Ah, but now he’s told us: His decision was “not about me…” (imagine a drum roll here)… “It’s about we.” And just like that, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned Tuesday, will be gone.

To borrow from another famous resigner, we won’t have Andrew Cuomo to kick around anymore. Or maybe we will.

He still faces impeachment and a trial in the state Senate. Lawmakers are considering whether to ban him from running for office in New York State ever again. That would sound like the plot of a comedy sketch if his sexual harassment of women in his office was not so indefensible and his excuses for his behavior so lame.

The report ordered by state Attorney Leticia James that appears to have forced his resignation dealt with civil law. But one of the women in the report has now filed a criminal complaint, which could have greater consequences.

You can learn plenty about Andrew Cuomo and the Cuomo family from Alan Chartock’s columns. But I crossed Andrew Cuomo’s path only once. It was in 2010, when he was running for his first term as governor. It was in a large room facing Warren Street filled with Cuomo supporters. He delivered what I took to be his stump speech and worked the crowd, shaking hands, posing for photos, the regular stuff. I made a few notes and looked up. He was staring at me. I was not welcome. Alan describes him as a “tough guy.” I know what he means.

Off the record the governor’s bullying was well known. But I was a supporter of Andrew Cuomo’s policies since he was attorney general and took on Sal Cascino’s illegal waste dump operation in Copake. I backed the SAFE Act’s gun control and marriage equality. But his ability to communicate the threat from Covid-19 and the steps needed to contain the virus drew me and millions of others to the TV screen for his daily updates. To this day I believe the pandemic would be even more terrifying if the public had been abandoned to the misleading information that seeped from the White House.

It’s alleged that decisions by Gov. Cuomo cost the lives of possibly thousands of nursing home patients who died from the virus and whose deaths were concealed from the public. That charge must be resolved if only because federal and state governments need in real time who’s dying where and of what. Otherwise we risk repeating errors of the past.

Attorney General James has a report on the nursing home issue, but it has failed to lead to action that would be useful for the next pandemic and helpful in bringing some measure of closure to the those who lost loved ones. Nor has it whether negligence was a factor or whether, in the midst of this catastrophe, there were no good solutions.

It would also be helpful to know whether viewers of Governor Cuomo’s TV briefings were deliberately misled. And if we were, how could that happen to so many of us at once. I want to believe that while watching those TV briefings I was thinking critically. If I was hoodwinked I need to restore my skepticism.

And there are new challenges just ahead. Public schools open at the beginning of September with all students in classrooms. Last week Ichabod Crane Central School District educators needed to plan what they’re supposed to do about wearing masks. But the schools had not yet received clear guidance from the state.

There is no Covid-19 vaccine approved for children under 12. There is a nasty new variant of the virus that’s 10 times more contagious than the original. Masks are a good way to prevent becoming infected or spreading the virus to others. But some parents don’t want their kids masked or vaccinated.

The governor no longer has emergency powers to require masks or vaccinations. The state legislature rescinded that authority.

Mr. Cuomo is right. It’s not about him… for now. For schools, the legislature should require vaccination for adults and teens, and masks for younger kids. Put Mr. Cuomo aside. Save lives now.

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