As New York officials prepare to put together a report on the state's COVID-19 response, a coalition of good-government groups is urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to reconsider its request to have an independent commission conduct such a review.
Hochul has reportedly ordered an internal review by the state health commissioner and other administration officials, but Reinvent Albany, Empire Center for Public Policy, Common Cause New York, League of Women Voters of New York State and New York Public Interest Research Group said they previously reached out to the governor with an even better idea: form an independent, expert-led commission to do the job.
Specifically, the groups recommended the following:
• Include independent experts.
• Include public hearings and meetings.
• Guarantee full access to state records and data.
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• Publish a public final report.
We agree that an independent, comprehensive analysis is in order. In the span of a few months, New Yorkers went from tuning in for daily briefings on the pandemic to having an embattled administration that began avoiding the public. There were mixed signals coming out of Albany that made it more difficult for county health departments to properly coordinate their efforts; businesses struggled to keep up with ever-changing regulations; and the public was often unsure of how to gauge the risk of going about their daily activities. Along the way, about 70,000 New Yorkers died. There are a lot of questions about what went right and what went wrong, but the most important thing is to be better prepared for the future.
We agree that what is needed is an external review rather than an internal one. It's important for the public to be able to trust that any published findings were not in any way swayed by bias. The report will need to be objective if it's going to have any value. The key is for it to be a truly independent review that isn't created or influenced in any way by people in state government. It should be trusted to people with expertise on public health policy related to infectious disease, not politics.
The Citizen Editorial board includes president and director of local sales and marketing Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.