New York Pandemic Response Review Deemed a Flop: Where Did It Go Wrong?

A Disappointing Assessment from the Olson Group

Recently, the Olson Group, a consultation firm from Virginia, released a 262-page review of New York’s pandemic response. The state had commissioned the report, but its findings left many dismayed. Poorly written, full of factual inaccuracies, and sloppily presented, the document fell short of the authoritative analysis Gov. Hochul had promised. New York needs a comprehensive review to better prepare for future viral outbreaks. But this review is not it.

A Call for Better Reviews

Many agree the governor should reject this unimpressive report. She needs to demand a refund and kick-start a real after-action review. Teaming up with the Legislature to establish an independent pandemic response commission could be the next step.

Some Pluses, Many Minuses

While the Olson Group correctly pinpointed former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s grab for decision-making authority as a shortcoming, the review contained many inaccuracies. It offered a questionable analysis of the Cuomo administration’s management of nursing homes during the pandemic. Specifically, the document falsely claimed that underreporting nursing home deaths was in compliance with state law. This misinformation is perilous, given that the accurate delivery of public records is fundamental for transparency.

Injustice to Comptroller’s Office

The Olson Group, in a strange move, faulted the Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office for supposedly not consulting the Health Department about a 2021 audit. DiNapoli’s office firmly refuted this claim, pointing to many meetings with the department during the year-long audit process. Olson’s failure to grasp this fact further dents their credibility.

A Bundle of Errors

Errors are scattered across the document. It incorrectly claims businesses sought proof of vaccination from customers in May 2020 when vaccines were not yet available. It shows a supposed major death spike from Covid-19 in fall 2021, which contradicts official figures. It also contains multiple misspellings and incorrect designations, suggesting the report may not have been thoroughly fact-checked or proofread.

The Report’s Flawed Approach

Relying heavily on the opinions of New York insiders, the report overlooked the perspective of outside experts. Comparisons with other states’ actions and global perspectives would have added credibility to the report.

Misunderstanding the Timeline

The report inaccurately pins the start of the crisis to March 1, 2020, with the confirmation of the first Covid case. However, the virus likely hit New York much earlier, around late January or early February. This misrepresentation alters the narrative, implying officials were initially nonchalant and later may have overreacted.

The Need for Cooperation

According to the report, some “key officials” declined to provide information for fear of legal repercussions. The public needs to know who refused to cooperate. They also deserve a better investigation.

Push for an Independent Commission

There’s pending legislation for an independent pandemic response commission in both the Assembly and Senate. It will be led by experts and have the power to summon witnesses and documents. Despite negotiations, the proposal has yet to move forward.

Bottom Line

New Yorkers deserve justice for the 83,000 deaths and the life disruptions caused by the pandemic. A poorly researched consultant’s report is not sufficient. It’s clear from this fiasco that New York needs a comprehensive, reliable, and detailed review of its pandemic response. Only then can the state prepare adequately for future health crises.



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