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American Crisis

Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Andrew M. Cuomo
15-minute read
Audio available
American Crisis by Andrew M. Cuomo

American Crisis (2020) is a candid retelling of how Governor Andrew Cuomo managed the COVID-19 crisis in one of the worst affected states in America: New York. It reveals the steps Cuomo took to steer New York through the early days of the pandemic in a country run by a president Cuomo sees as incapable of leadership. It also shows how real leadership requires honesty and transparency, clear communication, and compassion for others.

  • Anyone interested in American politics 
  • Leaders of organizations who want to learn about crisis management
  • Those curious about how New York has fared throughout the crisis

Andrew M. Cuomo took office as the 56th governor of New York in 2011. He’s a member of the Democratic Party and was elected to the same position his father, Mario Cuomo, held before him. Cuomo is a lawyer by trade and the author of All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life and Crossroads: The Future of American Politics.

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American Crisis

Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Andrew M. Cuomo
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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American Crisis by Andrew M. Cuomo
Synopsis

American Crisis (2020) is a candid retelling of how Governor Andrew Cuomo managed the COVID-19 crisis in one of the worst affected states in America: New York. It reveals the steps Cuomo took to steer New York through the early days of the pandemic in a country run by a president Cuomo sees as incapable of leadership. It also shows how real leadership requires honesty and transparency, clear communication, and compassion for others.

Key idea 1 of 9

The virus was circulating in New York weeks before the outbreak.

Let’s begin at the start of the outbreak on March 1. That’s the day the New York State government was notified of the first coronavirus case in New York City. 

Shortly after the news, Governor Cuomo’s office issued a statement to New Yorkers. It said it wasn’t a matter of if the coronavirus arrived in the state, but when. And it said the authorities were springing into action to manage the situation. 

Despite this warning, most people in New York weren’t really worried about the virus. At this stage, no one – not even the state government – knew how bad things would become. 

The key message here is: The virus was circulating in New York weeks before the outbreak. 

In the weeks leading up to the first coronavirus case, people in New York were unaware that COVID-19 had reached the city. 

 

There were several reasons for this. One was that the federal authorities had given out the wrong information about the source of the virus. They told Cuomo and other governors that COVID-19 was coming from China and that it was entering the country from the West Coast. 

This turned out to be wrong: the virus had actually arrived in New York weeks before, from Europe. And it had been circulating among thousands undetected.

The misinformation issued by the federal government resulted in a series of fatal mistakes by public-health agencies. 

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the CDC – began testing the wrong people. They allowed tests for symptomatic people who had traveled to the USA from Wuhan, China, but travelers from Europe – who may have been infected, too – were not tested. 

The result? The number of cases the CDC registered countrywide was lower than the real tally.

This gave public-health authorities a false sense of security. All throughout January and February, the New York State Department of Health said there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization had declared a global emergency as early as January 30, while San Diego and then San Francisco declared a state of emergency in February.

Supplying the wrong information was bad enough. But it wasn’t the only mistake the federal government would make throughout the crisis. We’ll take a look at this in the following blinks.

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