New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump frequently clashed over the government response to the pandemic—but one thing they may have shared is a disdain for the advice of experts. The New York Times reports that nine senior officials have left the New York State Health Department in recent months. Insiders say the experts felt sidelined by Cuomo's policies and "morale was and continues to be at an all-time low." The Democratic governor has argued that he had to take greater control of the pandemic response because plans prepared by state experts weren't suitable for dealing with such a large-scale crisis. "When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts," he said at a press conference Friday. "Because I don't."
The Times' sources say top health officials were "blindsided" in the fall when Cuomo shelved longstanding mass vaccination plans and introduced a plan that relied on large hospital systems. Earlier in the pandemic, state health officials often didn't know about COVID policy changes before the governor announced them at press conferences, the insiders say. New York City and health experts including Dr. Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York, blame the governor's approach for the initially slow, and sometimes chaotic, rollout of vaccinations in the state. New York has started catching up and now ranks around 20th in the nation for vaccination progress. (New York Attorney General Letitia James says nursing home COVID deaths may have been massively underreported.)