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Ex-Obama official says NY Gov. Cuomo has been a ‘fabulous leader’ during coronavirus crisis

Daily press briefings from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak have drawn national attention for detailed and at-times sobering updates that some have contrasted favorably with daily appearances from President Donald Trump

In a newly released interview, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who served in the Obama administration, praised Cuomo’s management under duress and echoed his call for additional support from the federal government.

“I think Governor Cuomo has been a fabulous leader in a time of crisis,” she says. “He's been very clear about what he and his experts estimate to be the needs in New York State for hospital beds, for health care workers, for ventilators and protective gear and he is trying to play beat the clock.”

New York has become the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. At a press briefing on Wednesday, Cuomo said New York State had over 83,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus — making up over 41% of the cases in the U.S.

In response, Cuomo has set up makeshift hospitals in various areas around the city from Central Park to the Jacob Javits Center and pleaded for additional help from the federal government as well as medical workers nationwide.

Rice emphasized the urgency of the crisis that faces New York, citing Cuomo’s recent prediction that the state could soon have as many as 140,000 hospitalized patients at one time while requiring between 30,000 and 40,000 ventilators.

“He's doing his utmost,” Rice says, adding criticism of what she considers inadequate aid from the federal government. “I think [Cuomo] would be the first to say that he appreciates what federal support he's received, but it's not yet enough.”  

NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2020/03/30: Following the arrival in New York City of the U.S. Naval hospital ship Comfort, NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo is seen during a press conference at the field hospital site at the Javits Center. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Under the Obama administration, Rice established in 2015 the office of Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council, which sought to prevent and contain global health crises. In 2018, the Trump administration disbanded the office and its senior director, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, departed the administration.

Rice served as the National Security Advisor under president Barack Obama for three and a half years, giving intelligence briefings to the president each morning; and before that, she spent Obama’s first term as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

New York officials predict the state will reach the apex of its cases within the next two to three weeks. 

During his daily press briefing Tuesday, the governor denounced the “eBay” style bidding wars that some states have been put in while chasing protective medical equipment, ventilators, and other critical needs. He also acknowledged that the exact timeline for the outbreak in New York State remains an open question.

“When is it over? Nobody knows,” Cuomo said. “I can say this, it’s not going to be soon.”

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