As New York officials prepare to write a report on the state’s response to COVID-19, a coalition of good government groups is urging Governor Kathy Hochul to reconsider her request to have such a review conducted by a independent committee.

Hochul reportedly ordered an internal review by the state health commissioner and other administration officials, but Reinvent Albany, Empire Center for Public Policy, Common Cause New York, League of Women Voters of New York State and New York Public Interest Research Group said they had previously approached the governor with an even better idea: form an independent, expert-led commission to do the job.

Specifically, the groups recommended the following:

• Include independent experts.

• Include public hearings and meetings.

• Ensure full access to state archives and data.

• Publish a public final report.

We agree that an independent and comprehensive analysis is required. Within months, New Yorkers went from listening to daily pandemic briefings to a beleaguered administration that began avoiding the public. There were mixed signals from Albany that made it harder for county health departments to properly coordinate their efforts; businesses struggled to keep up with ever-changing regulations; and the public often did not know how to assess the risk associated with their daily activities. Along the way, approximately 70,000 New Yorkers died. There are many questions about what went well and what went wrong, but the most important thing is to be better prepared for the future.

We agree that what is needed is an external review rather than an internal review. It is important that the public can trust that the published results have in no way been influenced by bias. The report will have to be objective if it is to have any value. The key is that it is a truly independent review that is not created or influenced in any way by members of the state government. It should be entrusted to people with expertise in public health policy related to infectious diseases, not politics.

— Citizen Auburn

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