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Suozzi: Gov. Hochul lacks plan, could 'do a better job' on COVID-19

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who on Monday

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who on Monday joined the New York gubernatorial race, has begun criticizing Gov. Kathy Hochul and her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: AP / John Minchillo

ALBANY — Rep. Tom Suozzi, on his first day of campaigning for governor, criticized Gov. Kathy Hochul’s handling of the pandemic as "piecemeal" and an "afterthought."

Hochul countered she has a "very expansive strategy" to combat COVID-19, already featuring some of the things Suozzi advocates.

In a news conference, Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said his fellow Democrat lacked a comprehensive plan for increasing booster shots and preventing the spread of the virus during the onset of the holiday season. He said the state should have more "pop-up" sites for vaccines and noted that Hochul hasn’t been sufficiently present in explaining her COVID-19 strategies to New Yorkers.

"It can't just be another news release that we're doing … an announcement here and announcement there. I'm going to go travel here. I'm going to go do a fundraiser here," Suozzi said. "I think the governor can do a better job laying out a comprehensive plan. … It can’t be an afterthought."

Later in Washington, Hochul, after meeting with Suozzi and other members of the New York congressional delegation on various matters, said her administration already is deploying many of those strategies.

"I just told him. We just had a nice conversation," Hochul said of Suozzi. "He asked for pop-ups. I explained that we already have pop- ups. He wanted more boosters out there. I explained that we have 4,500 sites for vaccines and boosters and we’re microtargeting by ZIP code. Any ZIP code that doesn’t have a vaccination site is going to get one."

Suozzi, a three-term congressman, announced Monday he’s jumping into the Democratic gubernatorial primary that now includes Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The congressman kicked off his first news conference since declaring his candidacy by zeroing in on the incumbent and COVID-19.

Suozzi said the state needs to do more as the holiday season and winter approach, and as a new variant has emerged. He said the state also should look at tougher mask requirements and venue-capacity limits in regions where virus cases are spiking.

Suozzi also praised ex-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for being a daily presence early on in the pandemic and outlining the state’s plans. Suozzi has said he’s running as a centrist and fellow Democrats have said he’ll be courting Cuomo Democrats.

Cuomo resigned Aug. 24 to avoid a likely impeachment trial following an investigation overseen by James that concluded he sexually harassed multiple women.

While not dismissing Cuomo’s behavior, Suozzi said the former governor accomplished a "tremendous amount." On COVID-19, he said Cuomo "laid out a plan" and "shared it with the public."

However, though initially praised, Cuomo’s pandemic efforts have been more harshly criticized. In the James report, testimony of former state employees exposed a top-down approach that created problems, including prohibiting state health officials from collaborating with locals and forcing statewide test results to be routed through the governor’s office rather than a reporting system to alert local officials.

Asked about those issues, Suozzi said: "Governor Cuomo had a reputation for being very controlling of everything. … You can't control everything like that. So that's a difference between he and I."

With Laura Figueroa Hernandez

State & Region