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Cuomo: ‘Federal incompetence’ worse threat than COVID-19 virus

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks May 14, 2020, from Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.

(The Center Square) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lashed out at the Trump administration Thursday afternoon after a federal report showed that the initial spike in cases of coronavirus in March was caused by European travelers who came to the state in January and February.

Cuomo and President Donald Trump have periodically traded accusations over who was to blame for New York leading the nation in coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths following the spike in March and April. Trump and other Republicans have pointed to the Cuomo administration’s policy that called for nursing home residents to be returned from hospitals to their original facilities despite a diagnosis of a coronavirus infection.

But Cuomo has assailed Trump’s decision to shut down travel from China, the original source of the pandemic, in early February while allowing flights from Europe to continue for another month. The Democratic governor has periodically cited studies that claimed New York’s outbreak came mostly from European travelers.

report released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to bolster Cuomo’s case.

“Using genetic sequencing, CDC determined that the sequences of most [coronavirus]-positive specimens resembled those circulating in Europe, suggesting probable introductions of [coronavirus] from Europe, from other U.S. locations, and local introductions from within New York,” the CDC report said.

In a call with journalists shortly after the report’s release, Cuomo claimed that he was vindicated and that it showed a pattern of poor decision-making by federal officials.

“The president likes to talk about his travel ban that was effective,” Cuomo said. “His own CDC says the travel ban was too late. The president loves to talk about his China travel ban, Feb. 2. By the time the President did the China travel ban it was too late because the virus had left China and went to Europe. … By the time they did the travel ban from Europe on March 13, it was too late. The virus was in New York. It had been in New York for weeks.”

Tensions have been high between the Trump administration and the CDC over disputes about reopening public schools across the country over the next few months. A preliminary plan from the CDC was rejected by the White House as impractical. Another flashpoint has been the collection of fatality data from hospitals, as the Department of Health and Human Services this week assumed that task in place of the CDC.

Cuomo pointed the finger at the White House for what he sees as a failure to provide proper leadership during a crisis that has crushed the economy and has seen more than 130,000 Americans cut down by the viral disease.

“The only way you defeat a virus is with science and medicine, and this federal government still doesn’t understand that fact,” Cuomo said. “The real virus we’re fighting is not COVID. We’re fighting a virus worse than COVID. You know what virus is worse than COVID? The virus of American division and federal incompetence.

“This is from the CDC, it’s their own words,” Cuomo added. “His own officials. Now maybe that’s why the president is trying to take us authority away from the CDC. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

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