Despite critics, Baker, Cuomo honored for virus leadership

  • Gov. Charlie Baker speaks after touring the DCU Center as it gears up to be used as a COVID-19 field hospital for the second time on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020 in Worcester, Mass. (Nancy Lane/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — both praised and reviled for their coronavirus wins and missteps — were being honored for their pandemic leadership at a virtual event Wednesday evening.

Baker, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, have led states that were among the hardest-hit places during the first wave of infections last spring. The Edward M. Kennedy Institute credited Cuomo and Baker with taking actions that helped slow the spread of the disease, including pushing people to wear masks in public and take other precautions.

The institute, naming both governors as recipients of its Award for Inspired Leadership, praised them for actions beyond their handling of the pandemic. It pointed to efforts by Baker to use public-private partnerships to spur economic development, overhaul the state’s regulatory environment and deliver tax relief by doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit.

It also noted Baker’s efforts to invest in K-12 education, combat the opioid crisis and expand the state’s reliance on renewable energy. And it credited his spearheading of changes at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority that were meant to improve service and stabilize the public transit agency’s finances.

Baker, however, has come under criticism for his handling of a second surge of the coronavirus in Massachusetts, particularly his decision to allow restaurants to continue to allow indoor dining, which he didn’t allow during the initial surge. Baker has said that restaurants have taken precautions, and this week he announced that their capacity limit would be reduced from 50% to 40% as of Sunday.

The institute praised Cuomo, who first took office on January 2011, for fighting “for social, racial and economic justice for all New Yorkers.”

Under Cuomo’s leadership, New York passed a $15 minimum wage, the nation’s strongest paid family leave program and some of its strongest gun safety laws, the largest investment in education in state history and a first-in-the-nation Green New Deal for New York, the institute said.

But Cuomo has been faulted for not acting sooner to shut down New York City during the early days of the pandemic and for waiting too long to require New Yorkers to wear masks. He’s also been criticized for a March 25 order that sent thousands of recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals into nursing homes.

The U.S. Justice Department is trying determine whether New York is undercounting coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents.

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