The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Hochul adds 12k to NY tally

Benjamin set to be named Lt. Gov.

- By Marina Villeneuve

ALBANY, N.Y. — Delivering another blow to what’s left of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, New York’s new governor acknowledg­ed on her first day in office that the state has had nearly 12,000 more deaths from COVID-19 than Cuomo told the public.

“The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happen- ing. And that’s whether it’s good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that’s how we restore confidence,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on NPR.

In its first daily update on the outbreak Tuesday evening, Hochul’s office reported that nearly

55,400 people have died of the coronaviru­s in New York based on death certificat­e data submit- ted to the Centers for Disease Con- trol and Prevention.

That’s up from about 43,400 that Cuomo reported to the public as of Monday, his last day in office. The Dem

ocrat who was once widely acclaimed for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak resigned in the face of an impeachmen­t drive after being accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women, allegation­s he disputed.

The higher number is not entirely new. Federal health officials and some academic institutio­ns tracking COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been using the higher tally for many months because of known gaps in the data Cuomo had been choosing to publicize.

But Hochul, who was lieutenant governor before being propelled to the state’s highest office, said it is vital to be fully transparen­t about the numbers.

“There’s a lot of things that weren’t happening, and I’m going to make them happen,” she said Wednesday on MSNBC. “Transparen­cy will be the hallmark of my administra­tion.”

Cuomo’s lawyer Rita Glavin and his campaign staff did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press first reported in July on the large discrepanc­y between the figures publicized by the Cuomo administra­tion and numbers the state was reporting to the CDC.

The count used by Cuomo in his news media briefings and on the s tate’s COVID-19 fatality tracker included only laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported through a state system that collects data from hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities.

That meant the tally excluded people who died at home, in hospice, in prisons or at state-run homes for people with disabiliti­es. It also excluded people who probably died of COVID-19 but never got a positive test to confirm the diagnosis.

“There are presumed and confirmed deaths. People should know both,” Hochul said.

By Wednesday, the state’s website included the higher tally.

During the spring of 2020, when New York was the deadliest hot spot in the U.S., Cuomo emerged in the eyes of many Americans as a hero of the pandemic for his daily Powerpoint briefings and stern but reassuring language. He won an internatio­nal Emmy and wrote a book on leadership in a crisis.

But Cuomo’s critics long charged that he was manipulati­ng coronaviru­s statics to burnish his image. Months later, it turned out that his administra­tion had minimized the death toll among nursing home residents by excluding several thousand who had succumbed after being transferre­d to hospitals.

Cuomo used those lower numbers last year to erroneousl­y claim that New York was seeing a much smaller percentage of nursing home residents dying of COVID-19 than other states.

Federal prosecutor­s have been investigat­ing his administra­tion’s handling of the data. The state Assembly Judiciary committee has also been investigat­ing the matter.

This week, in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal, Cuomo’s Emmy was revoked. And the publisher of his book has said it will no longer print hardcover copies and will not come out with a paperback edition.

Hochul has selected Brian Benjamin, a state senator from New York City, as her choice for lieutenant governor, according to a person familiar with the administra­tion’s internal discussion­s.

The person spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Hochul had yet to announce her decision publicly. She is expected to do so this week.

If he accepts the job, the 44-year-old Benjamin would become the state’s second Black lieutenant governor. The Democrat, whose district includes most of central Harlem, has focused his legislativ­e career on criminal justice reform and affordable housing.

The role of lieutenant governor in New York has long been largely ceremonial, with the officehold­ers traveling to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and town halls across the state. But two recent lieutenant governors have become governor following the resignatio­ns of their predecesso­rs.

Hochul, a Democrat, became governor Tuesday when Andrew Cuomo resigned after facing numerous allegation­s of sexual harassment, which he denied. David Paterson, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, became its first Black governor when Eliot Spitzer resigned after revelation­s that he had patronized a prostitute.

Hochul’s and Benjamin’s offices didn’t immediatel­y return messages seeking comment.

Benjamin is the son of Caribbean immigrants. He was born in Harlem Hospital and raised in the neighborho­od, later earning a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He later worked as a developer of affordable housing. He is now senior assistant majority leader in the Senate and chair of the budget and revenue committee.

Benjamin initially ran on promises to close Rikers Island, New York City’s giant and troubled jail complex, and sponsored a bill to do so. He also introduced legislatio­n to divest New York’s public pension fund from private prisons. State Comptrolle­r Tom Dinapoli later ended the fund’s holdings in those companies.

In the national uproar after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota in 2020, Benjamin helped push through a law to criminaliz­e the use of police chokeholds that result in injury or death.

Benjamin has also tweeted support for defunding the police.

This year, Benjamin sponsored a bill making it harder to incarcerat­e people for minor parole violations. The legislatio­n passed the Senate and Assembly but hasn’t been delivered to the governor, according to the Senate’s website.

Benjamin unsuccessf­ully ran for New York City comptrolle­r this year.

 ??  ?? New York State Sen. Brian Benjamin
New York State Sen. Brian Benjamin
 ??  ?? New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
 ?? OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK VIA AP ?? In this still image from video, Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Cuomo resigned over a barrage of sexual harassment allegation­s in a fall from grace a year after he was widely hailed nationally for his detailed daily briefings and leadership during the darkest days of COVID-19.
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK VIA AP In this still image from video, Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Cuomo resigned over a barrage of sexual harassment allegation­s in a fall from grace a year after he was widely hailed nationally for his detailed daily briefings and leadership during the darkest days of COVID-19.

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