NEW YORK (AP) — Some television shows age much better than others.
For CNN, last spring's prime-time banter between Chris Cuomo and his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, looks worse in hindsight as the governor's administration is questioned about its role in failing to disclose the true number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths.
CNN is covering that story, but not on Chris Cuomo's show. The network said it had reinstated a prohibition on Cuomo interviewing or doing stories about his brother that it had temporarily lifted last spring.
The brothers were both in the spotlight last March. Chris Cuomo caught COVID-19 and continued anchoring his show from his basement, while the governor dealt with New York's hellish days as the nation's early coronavirus epicenter. Andrew Cuomo's near-daily briefing was widely televised and, to some viewers, embraced as a counterpoint to those held by former President Donald Trump.
Nine times between March 19 and June 24, 2020, the governor appeared on his brother's show. The trash-talking and brotherly love between the two Italians from Queens was fun if occasionally cheesy, like when Chris Cuomo mocked his brother's big nose with a giant cotton swab he said would be necessary to give him a COVID-19 test.
“I found these interviews to be very entertaining, and perhaps Chris could ask questions of his brother that other people can't,” said Roy Gutterman, a media law professor at Syracuse University. "But from the very beginning, I thought it was wildly inappropriate.
“It's Journalism 101,” he said. “We tell our students you shouldn't interview your family and friends.”
The policy avoids a conflict of interest — can one brother really be expected to ask tough questions of another? — or at the very least the appearance of one.
Through a spokeswoman, CNN said that the early months of the pandemic were an extraordinary time.
“We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest,” CNN said. “As a result, we made an exception to a rule that we have had in place since 2013 which prevents Chris from interviewing his brother, and that rule remains in place today.”
Largely bubbling below the radar for months, questions about Andrew Cuomo have come to the forefront in the past few weeks. New York's attorney general issued a report that said the administration minimized the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 by excluding those who died elsewhere, usually a hospital.
This was significant because of a Cuomo administration directive in March that nursing homes should not deny admission or readmission to a patient because they had COVID-19. The policy was rescinded two months later.
Keeping the true number of nursing home residents who died hidden would theoretically deflect any blame for a bad policy choice. The governor has blamed staff entering nursing homes for spreading the virus to the vulnerable population, not patients brought in with COVID-19. He has said it would be discriminatory not to let those patients into nursing homes.
Last week, it was revealed that an Andrew Cuomo aide told New York legislators that the true picture of nursing home deaths wasn't revealed for fear it would be used against the governor during an investigation launched by Trump’s Justice Department.
The last time the governor appeared on his brother's show, in June, Chris Cuomo asked him: “Nursing homes. People died there. They didn't have to. It was mismanaged. And the operators have been given immunity. What do you have to say about that?”
The governor replied that some of what his brother said was incorrect. “But that's OK,” he said. “It's your show. You say whatever you want to say.”
He went on to say that it was a tragic situation “and we have to figure out how to do it better next time.”
CNN has covered the most recent developments several times outside of Chris Cuomo's show, including at least 24 times last week alone. Two notable instances were a thorough report by Brianna Keilar on Jan. 29 and Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday. Both anchors said they had asked Andrew Cuomo to appear on their show and been turned down — dozens of times, in Tapper's case.
The governor “made a bad decision that may have cost lives and then his administration hid that data from the public,” Tapper said.
Although Chris Cuomo, following his network's policy, hasn't addressed the latest stories, the byplay with his brother did come up just before the election last October in a heated exchange on his show with Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
Murtaugh criticized Cuomo for asking “self-righteous questions” about whether the Trump administration took COVID-19 seriously, and referenced the giant swab.
“Does this look like a couple of guys who were taking it seriously?” he said. “You had your brother on for the Cuomo Brothers Comedy Hour.”
“Yes, I did,” Chris Cuomo replied. “It was funny as hell."
Photos: A look inside a modern COVID-19 'field hospital'
Art Singleton, 56, sat in his wheelchair and watched as a nurse pushed his friend down the makeshift hallway. Another nurse pulled DiPompo's oxygen tank behind him, past a long row of blue curtains, a bed behind each one.
"We were at the bottom," DiPompo said of his friendship with Singleton, a pizzeria employee who had lost part of a leg to diabetes. "He had no feet, I had heart disease."
Then DiPompo left, wheeled out of a field hospital built in an old Citizens Bank call center, in a two-story office building on a busy commercial street.
The non-profit Care New England health network opened the Kent Field Hospital on Nov. 30, just before Rhode Island's infection rate became the highest in the world. Kent Hospital was using all its beds for its sickest COVID-19 patients, and needed somewhere for the overflow. Now, other hospitals also occasionally send patients to the field hospital.
Rhode Island's infection rate has come down since then, and many of the field hospital's 335 beds are now empty. On quiet days, the medical staff wishes they could do more.
Only stable, non-intubated COVID-19 patients are transferred a few miles to the field hospital, and only if they consent. Some refuse. The idea of a field hospital can conjure up images of giant tents in a war zone, canvas sides flapping in the wind.
This is nothing like that. A $6 million renovation turned the office building into a modern hospital for less-sick COVID patients, with negative-pressure air ducts that snake along the ceilings, drawing out airborne contagions.
Roughly 200 patients have gone through the field hospital, most spending just a few days before going home to finish recovering. Unlike in a regular hospital ward, where COVID patients can't leave their rooms, patients here are free to roam.
With low patient numbers, the medical staff pays close attention to each person: Helping them walk the corridors to improve lung capacity, stretching stiff feet, handing out ice pops, coloring pictures with an elderly man, cutting Singleton's hair.
Relatives drop off fresh clothes and food, even bringing enough pizza one time for all the staff and patients. Tabletop bells, the kind once ubiquitous at hotel front desks, sit beside each bed to call for nurses.
Then there's what the staff calls "the honeymoon suite," the curtained-off cubicle where Peter and Pauline Sorrow are — finally, hopefully — finishing their battles with coronavirus.
Peter, 62 and Pauline, 71, have been together for 25 years. The longest they've been apart were the five days when Peter was first hospitalized in January for COVID-19. Since then, through recovery and relapse, he's been in the main hospital twice, and is now finishing his second stint in the field hospital. For a few days after Pauline first got sick, they were just across the hall from one another in the main hospital, isolated in their own negative pressure rooms, communicating by phone.
Pauline, who is still mostly bedridden, was thrilled when they wheeled her bed next to Peter's in the field hospital.
He now helps care for her: opening a stubborn lid on her lunch, cleaning a spot of food off her gown, updating their family.
"He saved me," she said. While both are steadily recovering, Pauline worries that COVID-19 still could take both of them.
"I kind of wonder sometimes if we're going to wake up and we won't be here," she said.
In many ways, the field unit's quieter pace is a welcome relief for medical staff. Subrina Geer, 33, a nurse here on a temporary assignment, saw the disease ravage New York City last year.
This is different: "It was a breath of fresh air to see how many patients we could discharge," she said.
Dr. Paari Gopalakrishnan, who runs the field hospital, thought by now they'd be ready to close it down. But with the main hospital still crowded with patients — many with severe COVID-19 — it's too early for that decision.
"What we've basically done is kick the can down the road," he said. The field hospital is "easy to shut off but really hard to turn it back on."
Associated Press correspondent Marina Villeneuve in Albany, N.Y. and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.