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Former New York Governor Criticizes Coronavirus Response

May 30, 2020 | Michael Barasch

George Pataki could not have anticipated that the release of his new book, which looks back at the post-9/11 political climate, would occur in the middle of another world-changing event, the COVID-19 pandemic. The book, released in April, and his virtual book tour have drawn the former New York governor into the conversation about the current administration’s crisis response.

Pataki has a unique perspective. He occupied the governor’s residence when terrorists attacked Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. In a Politico interview published the same day as his new book, Beyond the Great Divide, Pataki related mixed thoughts on how Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled the COVID-19 outbreak that has thrown New York and much of the world into upheaval.

Pataki expressed disappointment at what he views as poor communication between the governor and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He highlighted the differing messages coming from the governor and mayor regarding school closures as an example of communication breakdown. He contrasted the coronavirus response with his own administration’s decision to merge the state’s command center with the NYPD command center within hours of the 9/11 attacks, saying this cooperation “allowed us to have a seamless response that I think was critical.”

Despite this criticism, including what he called “disastrous” handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic, Pataki seems to have a positive assessment of certain aspects of the COVID-19 response, such as Cuomo’s daily briefings. “I think his briefings are informative and helpful. That’s part of helping people understand where we are and where we are going,” Pataki told Politico.

Pataki drew a parallel between 9/11 responders and essential workers on the front lines during the pandemic. He said that on September 11, the “true heroes” were the firefighters, EMTs and construction workers. Today, the true heroes are “the truckers, the people who work in grocery stores, and all those in the health network, from the doctors to the orderlies, making sure the rooms and halls are clean.”

At Barasch & McGarry, we’re unique in the way that our legal practice intersects with health issues, specifically for 9/11 responders and survivors, many of whom have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19. We thank the medical community for the sacrifices they are making to fight coronavirus to keep all of us as healthy as possible. Our New York attorneys are available to speak with anyone suffering a 9/11 related illness. Call us at [ln::phone] or contact us online. Initial consultations are free.

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