‘Ridiculous demands’ and ‘impossible requests’: Life outside Cuomo's pandemic war room

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ALBANY, N.Y. — No one dared tell Andrew Cuomo how terrible they thought his idea was.

In the summer of 2020, with Cuomo at the height of his pandemic-inflated fame, the then-governor of New York suggested that the state health department deploy half its roughly 5,000 employees to check restaurants for their compliance with the state’s mask-wearing and capacity limit rules. Cuomo wanted to tout the number of tickets issued for noncompliance during his nationally televised news briefings, according to a former administration official who was on a call when the governor floated the idea.

“He was like, ‘You could use them like an army,’” said the official, who worked on the state’s pandemic response and requested anonymity to speak freely.

The governor’s proposal — “an impossible request” — baffled the official, whose account was confirmed by another person familiar with the plan. But, the official said, “the call ended and no one said ‘no’ to him … No one could explain to him how bad the idea was.”

Cuomo, who resigned in August, is facing renewed scrutiny over his response to the pandemic, including allegations that he downplayed Covid deaths while writing a pandemic memoir

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