How One Cozy Relationship Influenced Cuomo’s Covid Response


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after touring a vaccination site on March 8, 2021. (Seth Wenig / AFP via Getty Images)

Andrew Cuomo, once America’s most beloved governor, is fighting for his political life. At least six women have accused him of sexual harassment, and the FBI is probing how his administration tallied nursing home deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the popular pandemic narrative of Cuomo—as a successful responder to a crisis that has been lately led astray—is not fully accurate. New York state has America’s second-highest coronavirus death toll—nearly 50,000 people have died—and death rate. And choices made a year ago by Cuomo and his administration fueled the carnage in the state.

There was Cuomo’s delayed shutdown order and early downplaying of the virus. And recently another decision has drawn greater scrutiny: Cuomo’s directive ordering nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients, the sweeping legal immunity granted to those facilities, the hiding of the death toll there, and a long-running quest to shutter poorer hospitals across the state.

Many of these decisions were driven by one of the most powerful and overlooked interest groups in the state, Greater New York Hospital Association. Representing more than 200 hospitals across New York, including the wealthiest private hospital networks, it enjoys an unusually close relationship with Cuomo, designing laws, staffing state government, and deciding how billions in health care funding gets spent.

As the Cuomo scandals grow, it’s worth remembering the interest groups and lobbies that would prefer that the governor stay in power. GNYHA’s influence on the Cuomo administration, in the words of Bill Hammond, a New York health care policy expert with the right-leaning Empire Center, is “hard to overstate.”

“They have more access than most people in the entire government,” added state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a Bronx Democrat who has clashed with Cuomo. “They have essentially been given carte blanche for our legislative process.”

GNYHA’s clout begins with money. There are years when it has funneled more than $1 million to Cuomo’s campaign coffers alone. An in-house lobbyist, David Rich, donated more than $900,000 in a five-year period to various politicians, one of whom was Cuomo.

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