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Analysis: Nation's top governors under fire as three big states reckon with deadly crises

February 19, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24.8%. 2 min read.

The multiple crises gripping the US -- from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic to a deadly winter storm that left millions of Texans without heat and potable water -- have jeopardized the once-bright futures of three of the nation's most prominent governors who are trying to defend their judgment, preparedness and oversight to furious residents in three of the biggest states in the country.

But the white-hot scrutiny on all three of them underscores the increasing accountability for high-profile, big state governors after four years in which former President Donald Trump espoused a decentralized approach to the nation's most pressing problems and elevated the responsibility of governors to provide for their people by essentially telling them they were on their own.

The devastating impact of the pandemic and the near collapse of Texas' power grid has revealed the nation's lack of cohesive planning for disasters — whether it is US readiness to treat and vaccinate millions of Americans in the grip of a deadly virus or to protect them from the alarming severity of major weather events, including winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires that have unfolded in the midst of a climate crisis.

Abbot, Texas' Republican governor, is quickly becoming the embodiment of the risks of the Lone Star State's laissez-faire, anti-regulation ethos as he struggles to explain why the state's power grid was not prepared for the winter storm that led some Texans to burn furniture and fences to stay warm as another 13 million remain under boil water notices.

Newsom, California's Democratic governor, is facing a well-funded effort by Republicans to recall him from office after he enacted restrictive stay-at-home orders to try to halt the soaring number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in his state — actions that his opponents say crippled small businesses and slowed the state's economic recovery.

Cuomo's administration in New York is under scrutiny for the handling of some of the data surrounding Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities in New York, weeks after state Attorney General Letitia James revealed that the New York State Department of Health undercounted those deaths by approximately 50%, essentially by leaving out deaths of residents who had been transferred to hospitals.

"When something like Covid-19 hits in those states, it becomes a mad scramble that's kind of hard to wrap your hands around," Brinkley said, noting the size and complexity of New York, California and Texas.

Abbott was the latest to take that step during a briefing on the Texas energy grid crisis Thursday afternoon, where he said that power had been restored to the majority of Texans after a week in which more than 4 million customers were without it at one point — and outlined the actions he is taking to ensure the situation "can never be replicated again. "

Last week, Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa admitted in a call with state lawmakers that the administration tried to delay the release of the data on Covid-19 deaths in long-term care facilities, wary of a federal Justice Department preliminary inquiry.

During a Monday news conference, Cuomo -- who had engendered the trust of New Yorkers last year with his sober updates on the Covid-19 crisis -- said the data requested by lawmakers about Covid-19 deaths was not provided soon enough, but he insisted the state's death counts were accurate.

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