New York Post. February 17, 2021.

Cuomo says he’s offended by mafia references — so why does he act like Sonny Corleone?

Governor, do you recall how your brother was so offended when critics called him Fredo? Or your father’s famous rage at media talk of the mafia?

But if your family is so offended by comparisons to “The Godfather,” why do you keep acting like a two-bit don?

Assemblyman Ron Kim says he was bathing his children at home when “Gov. Cuomo called me directly on Thursday to threaten my career” if Kim did not walk back comments about Cuomo and COVID deaths in nursing homes. “He tried to pressure me to issue a statement, and it was a very traumatizing experience.”

The governor of New York then told his fellow Democrat that “we’re in this business together and we don’t cross certain lines and he said I hadn’t seen his wrath and that he can destroy me.”

Bullying, threatening, Cuomo even made some baseless ethics charges against Kim to round things out. All that’s missing is the horse’s head in the bed.

Cuomo’s fury is infamous; most of his aides walk in fear of his tantrums — which is one reason his staff turnover is so high. But threatening a legislator in this way is a new low.

Gov. Cuomo is used to the friendly environment of his brother’s CNN show, and he’s furious that the media and politicians finally have discovered the extent of the nursing home COVID debacle and his coverup.

For Cuomo, it’s not just politics. It’s always, always personal.

Newsday. February 15, 2021.

Editorial: We need more info on nursing home deaths

For 11 months, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other state officials hadn’t answered some of the tough questions about the terrible toll COVID-19 was taking on nursing homes and other adult facilities across the state.

On Monday, after enormous pressure, Cuomo finally took responsibility for the dearth of information and lack of communication on this topic, and tried to provide some additional context.

Those efforts were welcome and necessary steps in what’s been a lengthy, contentious chapter of the state’s handling of the pandemic.

But Cuomo didn’t go far enough, and it is unclear whether he assuaged the concerns of the families of the 15,049 residents of nursing home and other adult-care facilities who died of COVID-19.

In admitting that he should have better prioritized providing information, Cuomo said misinformation and conspiracy theories filled the void. That’s true, and some of the false claims are ugly. But Cuomo missed the larger point: It’s the state’s job to be forthright with the public — and his administration failed. He blamed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Justice, and a “toxic political environment” for influencing his decision-making.

And at no time did Cuomo apologize.

Significant questions remain. Should the state have handled nursing homes differently from the beginning? Should the state’s controversial March guidance that required nursing homes that were able to take patients discharged from hospitals been issued, and should it have been rescinded sooner? And why was the state not more responsive more quickly to demands for more information about the nursing home residents who died in hospitals or other places and were not included in the toll for nursing homes, and why were they not included? Cuomo noted that the state’s percentage of COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths was 34th in the nation, and said the disease was in 98% of facilities before any patient arrived from a hospital. He also noted that the death rate in nursing homes before the state guidance and after it was rescinded was the same. While the data provided context, it didn’t resolve outstanding questions. And while Cuomo tried to explain the impact of the DOJ requests for data, we still don’t know why the requests stopped the state from providing information to anyone else.

Cuomo said, “I don’t think there is anything to clear here ... There is nothing to investigate.” That’s the wrong mindset.

There is more to learn.

Attorney General Letitia James must continue her probe, and the State Legislature should hold hearings. The DOJ must determine whether the information provided by the state is accurate and whether an investigation is needed.

Even Cuomo’s announcement Monday that he plans to prioritize nursing home reform, with a focus on possibly capping the profits of the nursing home industry, speaks to why oversight hearings are necessary.

We must learn from the mistakes. It’s the only way to heal.

Jamestown Post-Journal. February 13, 2021.

Editorial: NYS Needs To Provide Education While Staying Within A Budget

In 2017-18, New York spent $24,040 per pupil to educate its children. To put this another way, the cost of the education each New York student received a 2020 Nissan Altima from state government.

The choices our state government makes regarding education spending, however, essentially leave the state paying for a brand new car and but choosing to fix grandma’s old, rusted out station wagon with no air conditioning and an AM/FM cassette radio because it’s easier to drive the old car than it is to go to a dealership and buy a new one.

The cost is the same. The performance is not.

School aid increased by 41% percent between April 2011 and April 2019, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy. In that same period, the consumer price index (CPI) increased 14 percent. Had New York simply increased school aid at the same rate as the CPI, the state would have spent $5.4 billion less on school aid in the 2020-21 school year.

According to the Empire Center, in 1999-2000, New York spending was 42% percent higher than the national average and results on NAEP, commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report card, were slightly above average. In 2017-18, spending was 91% higher than the national average and NAEP results had declined to average or slightly below average.

State legislators are talking about whether or not to increase education aid for the coming year, but what does that increase actually buy? In our view, simply increasing aid to schools is the wrong way to look at education funding, particularly during the COVID-19 panemic. The state doesn’t have the money to increase state aid to schools, which is why Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking federal stimulus money and using it to replace the state’s spending on schools.

Instead, legislators, the state Board of Regents and the state Education Department should be focused on finding a way to provide the education students and their families deserve while staying within a budget.

Some years, you can afford a new car. Other years, you look for a smaller, cheaper model. When it comes to education spending there are ways to do so.

No legislator wants to touch the live wire of school consolidations even though study after study have shown the idea saves money and allows the consolidated school district to offer more courses to its students. Consolidation pushed by state government and education policy makers is off the table due to a lack of guts and an unwillingness to upset teachers’ unions.

There are other options, like regional high schools. Legislation has been kicking around the state Legislature since at least 2014 that would give school districts to, in essence, share a high school as long as one high school closes. The only thing missing is something to push school districts into the regional concept –because we have seen in the past saving money and improving education are only rarely enough of a reason for area residents to vote for any sort of consolidation or merger.

Change must be made, and now is as good a time as any. That means local residents also must buy into the possibilities of school consolidations. Taxpayers must get over the concern that “their school” will lose its identity. It’s time for a change.

Because if we continue with the status quo, in 10 or 15 years, per pupil education spending may have been able to buy an SUV or a minivan — but we’ll still be stuck wasting good money after bad fixing the old, rusted out station wagon.

Dunkirk Evening Observer. February 16, 2021.

Editorial: VACCINES: Numbers hurt state effort

This is not an excuse when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s just a fact.

New York has 19 million residents. If the state is receiving between 250,000 to 300,000 vaccines weekly, it will take a long time before everyone receives their treatment. The good news? There is some progress.

“We’re vaccinating in what has been the largest effort since World War II. It’s amazing, I’ve been all over. The state of New York opened up mass vaccination centers, smaller vaccination centers, pop-up centers and pharmacies will be stepping up now which is great,” state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a State of the State address hosted by Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas. “We have to figure out now that when we look at a county like Chautauqua County there’s not huge urban areas, that accessibility is really important when we look at where people congregate.”

We are in a tough situation when it comes to vaccinations. The only state-sponsored sites are in Buffalo and there are no other in the Southern Tier until Binghamton. Chautauqua County offered one clinic last week and some are becoming frustrated with the process.

County officials have asked residents to remain patient — as though last week more than 9,000 here had the first of two shots. That means another 120,000 are still waiting. Another large number.

Niagara Gazette. February 16, 2021.

EDITORIAL: Enjoy your vacation but...

Coronavirus was just surging across China this time last year — more than 1,770 deaths had been tallied since the outbreak began in December — and was seeping over oceans and across borders into other parts of Asia. Americans exposed while on a cruise ship were being flown by chartered jet from Japan to quarantine for two weeks at Air Force bases in Texas and California.

Here, families with kids were decamping for ski slopes, a couple days in Toronto or maybe even a warm beach, that is if they were traveling for February vacation, likely unaware or unconcerned about the health threat percolating on the other side of the world. And the wild card in a presidential election nine months distant appeared to be a conflict with Iran. How quaint.

This February break is different, of course. As much as we may long for a vacation where we don’t have to worry about masks or social distancing or any other pandemic precautions — and as much as we are rightly encouraged by recent news about vaccinations, COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalization rates — we’d all do well to follow safety protocols and make sure we avoid yet another coronavirus spike on the other side of this vacation week.

Earlier this month, Public health officials in five Western New York counties sounded a warning about upcoming school break — both in February and the later break in April — and how travel surrounding them may impact COVID-19 infection rates in the region.

“Reducing the risk of travel-based cases, and reducing the spread of variant COVID-19 strains to and within Western New York communities is one part of our collective COVID-19 response,” the five public health directors said in their statement. “Our departments are strongly discouraging travel to areas of the country with high rates of COVID-19 transmission, known cases of variant COVID-19 strains, or areas that do not have COVID-19 safety measures in place.”

Most of us don’t need such reminders.

But, for the record, since we last went on February break, the virus labeled SARS-CoV-2 has altered human existence with an efficiency like nothing else in our lifetimes.

The number of deaths attributed to this virus globally has grown in a one year to nearly 2.4 million. In the United States, which leads the world in reported cases of COVID-19, with 27.5 million, the number of lives lost to the virus in one year now approaches the size of the population of Sacramento, California. That includes more than 250 people who have died in Niagara County.

All of those tallies don’t reflect the depths to which a pandemic has changed our physical and mental health, inflicted tragedy upon families and friends who’ve lost loved ones, interrupted our businesses and work lives, and rewired our communities. Scars from this pandemic will be visible for generations.

Sure, all of us could use a vacation.

We do have something real to celebrate, after all. The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, having spiked around the holidays and at the new year, has returned to levels last reported in early November. The number of people in the hospital due to the virus has fallen to levels last seen in early December.

Any progress is fragile, however, at least until many more of us are vaccinated. And the coincidence of the CDC’s guidance coming on the same day that some families leave for vacation — potentially for activities that will toss another log or two on the fires of this pandemic — was not lost on us.

So, for yourselves, and for the rest of us, enjoy your break. But please be safe and be careful.


Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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