According to those who never stopped reminding the public that Covid hasn’t gone away, Covid is back.

A new subvariant of Covid-19’s Omicron edition is sweeping through Europe and Asia. Early observations suggest this mutation is even more contagious than the highly communicable Omicron classic, but observers have not yet claimed that it is more severe. Nevertheless, this disease is revealing the superiority of the vaccines developed and distributed in the West, and the unvaccinated are, as ever, uniquely vulnerable to both illness and bad outcomes arising from infection.

This objectively reassuring news has failed to comfort the public health community. The usual suspects are back after being briefly sidelined by the outbreak of a war of conquest in Europe. They argue that we should prepare to reimplement the mitigation measures that disappeared as rapidly as the public’s patience for them. And yet, their advocacy has been stripped of the bravado and moral blackmail that once accompanied their calls for restrictions on social and economic life. They seem to recognize that few look back on the height of the pandemic with fondness, and even fewer want to see a return to the bad old days. But not everyone shares this realistic interpretation of the national mood. In his effort to engineer a political comeback for himself, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reveling in what was for most of us the purest misery.

“Good morning, New York,” Cuomo tweeted from his personal account over the weekend. His tweet was accompanied by a screengrab from one of the former governor’s daily mid-pandemic press briefings featuring a title card alerting the public that “Today is Saturday.” Cuomo’s nostalgia for a time when the nation hung on his every word—when he was the “love gov,” “America’s governor” whose briefings were deemed “must-see television” by the New York Times—is palpable. “The man literally looks back at the worst of the pandemic as the good old days and the greatest time of his life,” Abe Greenwald observed. “And he wants to sell people on that vision.” Crazy as it sounds, that does seem to be Cuomo’s strategy.

“I haven’t been perfect,” Cuomo insisted in a slick 30-second spot retailing the prospect of a comeback. That offhand admission might be a nod to the circumstances that led him to resign his office in the first place: an investigation conducted by New York’s attorney general alleging that the former governor had sexually harassed at least 11 women. But he insists, “we led this nation through the frightening Covid crisis.” That dubious assertion was accompanied by images of empty convention halls retooling themselves into triage centers and empty commercial high-rise buildings using their abandoned office space to communicate messages of resilience to traumatized New York City residents.

Why would Cuomo force the public to relive the bleakest days of the pandemic? If the most vocal proponents of the former governor’s return to the political stage are any indication, it’s not because of his dubious record managing Covid-19’s impact on his state. It’s because, in their trauma, his core supporters formed an unbreakable emotional attachment to Cuomo. “Though these women knew little about him before March 2020,” the New York Times wrote of the governor’s thin but dedicated cheering section, “they formed a deep connection with Mr. Cuomo in the darkest months of the Covid crisis.”

What but personal gratification explains Cuomo’s otherwise inexplicable dredging up of his disastrous final year in office over the other nine? After all, his conduct during the pandemic remains a drag on his political prospects.

As recently as last week, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an internal audit that confirmed the Cuomo administration had undercounted Covid deaths in nursing homes by more than 4,000. “The audit details how health officials undercounted deaths in nursing homes by more than 50% at certain points during the height of the crisis,” the New York Daily News reported. The findings underscore the conclusions New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed in a January 2021 report alleging that the Cuomo administration covered up the true death toll and its contributions to the body count. Albany’s “guidance requiring the admission of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes” put long-term care facility residents “at increased risk of harm,” that report revealed. All this only corroborates the many independent journalistic probes into how the governor’s administration contributed to the pandemic’s death toll and subsequently covered it up.

“In politics, like in life, you stand on your record,” Cuomo brazenly insists at the close of his comeback pitch. But Cuomo had more than a record. He had a cult of personality around him, and he loved every minute of it. What he wants isn’t just his name cleared and his career back. He wants the “Cuomosexuals” to fall back in love with the erstwhile object of their affections. Toward that end, Andrew Cuomo is dwelling on what for him must have been one of the best times of his life. That it was also the very worst of times for the rest of us seems to have escaped him.

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