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By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
Andrew Cuomo has been given kudos for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, why do I say this?
Consider the death counts. Hong Kong, a city of roughly 7 million people , one of the most densely populated in the world, and close to the Wuhan epicentre of COVID-19, has due to its excellent policies and health care, is only showing 104 deaths as of today. No typo.
Whereas New York, of which Cuomo is governor, has to this day suffered 32,696 deaths, and New York City, which holds a population of 8 million, making it about the same size as Hong Kong, has seen 23,875 deaths.
I’ve written about this comparison extensively, often drawing on the insights of Dr. Sarah Borwein, a Hong Kong based doctor with extensive experience going back to at least to SARS outbreak; see here; here; here; here; here; here; here; and here.)
When faced with this comparison, there’s no way I would call NY’s relative performance – for which Cuomo is trying to claim credit – good. And I will continue to hammer the point every time I see Cuomo trying to take a victory lap for New York state or city’s COVID-19 performance. It has been highly deficient, and only seems good in comparison to Trump. But is that any comparison?
Now, onto the latest controversy. Using his credit, Cuomo has jumped into the fraught debate over premature emerge of a vaccine, without sufficient design and testing. Everyone knows Trump is counting on an October surprise in the form of a vaccine to goose his re-election chances. And thus, we’re all primed to be rightfully skeptical of any vaccine the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might put forward, maybe any day now.
Enter stage left, Cuomo. According to the FT:
The governor of New York has become the latest figure to cast doubt on the Trump administration’s process to authorise a coronavirus vaccine, saying his state would do a separate review because he “does not trust the federal government”.
Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday his officials would review any vaccine licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration, warning that the federal process had become too politicised.
Mr Cuomo said: “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend [a vaccine] to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion.”
Now, state governors such as Cuomo enjoy no regulatory approval over vaccines. But Cuomo seems to have found a loophole and has appointed a 16-member panel to decide on logistics of how a vaccine would be distributed in New York. This ability would extend to go slow on distributing any vaccine it thought unsafe. So as a New Yorker, I might not, after all, have access to that first vaccine that is made available.
Over to the FT again:
Donald Trump, the US president, has said he expects a vaccine to be ready “within weeks”, while Stephen Hahn, the head of the FDA, has said he is willing to grant emergency authorisation even before the final phase of clinical trials.
This has led Democrats such as Mr Cuomo to warn that Mr Trump is pushing his appointees to rush out a vaccine before one has been proved to be both safe and effective. Mr Trump’s advisers reportedly call the idea of securing a vaccine approval before November’s election the “holy grail”.
The political fallout has found its way to ordinary Americans, only half of whom now would take any vaccine approved before the election, according to the Pew Research Center, as reported by the FT.
Although I won’t be taking a coronavirus vaccine anytime soon – even if I qualify to receive one – I think we are entering dangerous territory if state governors appropriate authority to involve themselves in the process of vaccine approval.
But I suppose that neither is the president supposed to get involved directly in such decisions either. I mean, that is why separate regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, exist.