New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic during his Monday night speech to the Democratic National Convention, accusing the White House of "negligence" even as his own administration drew flak for thousands of deaths in New York's nursing homes.
"Our collective strength is exercised through government. It is, in effect, our immune system. And our current federal government is dysfunctional and incompetent. It couldn't fight off the virus. In fact, it didn't even see it coming. The European virus infected the northeast while the White House was still fixated on China," Cuomo said during his speech, an apparent counterpoint to Trump's labeling of COVID-19 as the "China virus."
He added: "The virus had been attacking us for months before they even knew it was here. We saw the failure of a government that tried to deny the virus, then tried to ignore it, and then tried to politicize it. The failed federal government that watched New York get ambushed by their negligence, and then watched New York suffer, but all through it learned nothing."
During his speech, Cuomo strained to paint COVID-19 as a metaphor for deeper political deficiencies in the country, saying "COVID is the symptom, not the illness."
"Our nation is in crisis, and in many ways, COVID is just a metaphor,” he said. “A virus attacks when the body is weak and when it cannot defend itself. Over these past few years, America's body politic has been weakened."
But Cuomo, a third-term governor who has become one of the most prominent Democrats during the pandemic, has faced criticism for his response to the crisis, which struck New York early, killing more than 32,000 individuals -- the highest death toll in the country.
At issue is Cuomo's edict in late March that essentially ordered nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, a measure designed to free up hospital beds. Facing mounting pressure in May, Cuomo reversed the order.
The state has officially reported a care home death toll of more than 6,600; however, unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property -- not individuals who were transported to hospitals and died there, according to the Associated Press. The discrepancy could add thousands of individuals to the state's nursing home death toll.
The Cuomo administration has refused to release the number, leading some to speculate the state is intentionally manipulating the figures.
Republicans pushed back hard. Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration, tweeted after Cuomo's speech that the governor is responsible for "planting the seeds of infection that killed thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers."
"Does the #DemConvention know @NYGovCuomo is still undercounting elderly nursing home deaths by only counting those who died in the home - not the thousands who died in hospitals?" Caputo wrote.
But Cuomo pinned the blame of the duel health and economic crises on the White House, saying the U.S. -- six months after the pandemic started -- is still unprepared to fight the virus, which he said is "ricocheting across the country."
The U.S. has close to 5.5 million COVID-19 cases, the most in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 170,000 individuals have died as a result of the virus -- and cases are still rising in many parts of the country.
"We need a leader as good as our people. A leader who appeals to the best in us, not the worst. A leader who can unify, not divide," Cuomo said. "A leader who can bring us up, not tear us down. I know that man, I've worked with that man...I've seen his pain and I've seen his heart. That man is Joe Biden."