New York City was the 'primary gateway' for coronavirus outbreaks around the country

I’ll probably never stop being amazed at the difference between the media’s praise for Gov. Cuomo’s response to the pandemic and Cuomo’s actual results. Today the NY Times reports on new genetic research which concludes that New York City became the “primary gateway” which seeded coronavirus outbreaks around the United States:

The findings are drawn from geneticists’ tracking signature mutations of the virus, travel histories of infected people and models of the outbreak by infectious disease experts.

“We now have enough data to feel pretty confident that New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country,” said Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health…

“New York acted as the Grand Central Station for this virus, with the opportunity to move from there in so many directions, to so many places,” said David Engelthaler, head of the infectious disease branch of the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona.

Remember those stories back in March about wealthy New Yorkers fleeing the city in a panic to their second homes where they thought they’d be safer? Some locals became so upset with the influx that they began telling the summer people to stay home in New York. Last month the Times published a story about that which concluded it wasn’t clear what the impact of those actions were but “preliminary data and anecdotal evidence does suggest that fleeing New Yorkers may have hastened the virus’s spread.” That’s not to say all of this is about people with second homes but that was one indication of a general sense that New York was a hot spot and people traveling from the city were going to spread the virus. That’s exactly what happened.

There’s a graph in this story which compares the degree to which outbreaks in cities around the U.S. were seeded by New York City relative to the initial outbreak which took place in Washington state. As you can see, Washington is the only state where the majority of the outbreak had a west coast origin:

The Times argues this proves efforts to curb the spread in New York were too little, too late:

The central role of New York’s outbreak shows that decisions made by state and federal officials — including waiting to impose distancing measures and to limit international flights — helped shape the trajectory of the outbreak and allowed it to grow in the rest of the country.

During crucial weeks in March, New York’s political leaders waited to take aggressive action, even after identifying hundreds of cases, giving the virus a head start. And by mid-March, when President Trump restricted travel from Europe, the restrictions were essentially pointless, the data suggest, as the disease was already spreading widely within the country.

That link above goes to a story I wrote about here. As the national media remained intensely focused on the failures of the federal government and President Trump in particular, that NY Times piece pointed out that the real problems in New York stemmed first from overconfidence followed by delays and infighting between Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio.

“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”…

“We can really keep this thing contained,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference about virus preparations in late February.

That tone continued even after the first positive case was announced on March 1.

“Everybody is doing exactly what we need to do,” said Mr. Cuomo, seated with Mr. de Blasio, at a news conference on March 2. “We have been ahead of this from Day 1.”

As things started to get bad in New York, leadership tried to blame the feds for the failures but as the Times pointed out, efforts to slow the spread were always in the hands of New York officials:

They blamed the spread in New York on the federal government, which they say dragged its feet on testing. For weeks, Mr. Trump brushed aside concerns that the outbreak would damage the country…

But local officials did have control over closing schools and businesses. While they waited on making a decision, other major cities were moving toward shutdowns.

Looking back, it’s pretty clear that those failures at the state and local level impacted not just New York but the whole country. And yet, there are still people hoping that Gov. Cuomo might somehow replace Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee, as if his response to the outbreak is proof of his outstanding leadership. There is a vast gulf between his mostly glowing press and his actual achievements which could best be summed up with that graph above.