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Gov. Andrew Cuomo's COVID book hits shelves Tuesday amid growing virus cases. What he writes.

Joseph Spector Jon Campbell
New York State Team

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo describes in his new book on the COVID-19 pandemic how he tried to balance getting more resources for New York last spring with his disdain for the way the Trump administration was handling the pandemic.

One night, he wrote in the book released Tuesday, he told his three daughters at the governor's mansion his predicament after President Donald Trump played a clip April 19 during a press briefing of Cuomo praising a part of the federal response.

"I had to explain that there is a difference between politics and government and that I don’t have the luxury of operating through my own political or personal lens when it comes to doing my job as governor," Cuomo writes in the book, titled AMERICAN CRISIS: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic, according to an excerpt provided to the USA TODAY Network New York.

But Cuomo's book comes out at a perilous time for his job as governor.

Coronavirus infection rates in New York have continued to creep up, and hot spots through New York City, parts of the Hudson Valley and sections of upstate are threatening to upend the state's ability to keep its rates among the lowest in the nation in recent months.

New York also has the most COVID deaths in the nation with more than 25,500 confirmed since March, including at least 6,500 in nursing homes.

The book, which offers a harsh critique of Trump and blames New York's death toll on unchecked visitors from Europe, has brought criticism that Cuomo is trying to capitalize on the attention the virus brought to New York and Cuomo, whose daily COVID briefings were a fixture on national cable TV.

"Will there be a second part featuring families who lost seniors in nursing homes? There’s thousands of us who still don’t have proper answers from @NYGovCuomo who’s profiting off their deaths," Janice Dean, a senior meteorologist on the Fox News Channel who had in-laws die in New York nursing homes, wrote Sunday on Twitter.

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Cuomo book comes amid growing infection rates

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is writing a new book, American Crisis, set to hit shelves on Oct. 13, 2020.

Cuomo, 62, now in his third term, is doing a national TV tour to promote the book, appearing on CBS Sunday Morning, the TODAY show and Tuesday on Live with Kelly and Ryan.

The governor has also scheduled virtual events and at least one private webinar to promote his book.

The one-hour webinar, with major law firm Skadden Arps, drew criticism from government-reform advocates because the firm promised a copy of Cuomo's book to each participant on the call, which included more than 400 of its employees.

The Democratic governor has declined to say how much he is being paid for the book, noting it will be on his financial-disclosure form released next year. His office has said he received approval from the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to write the book so long as he doesn't promote it with state resources, but has declined to release the ethics opinion.

It is Cuomo's second book since he took office in 2011. His memoir, All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life, sold a mere 3,800 copies since its release in 2014, according to NPD BookScan. He was paid about $750,000 for it.

He said the latest book is about his observations on the pandemic and what New York learned, stressing it is not a victory lap.

"it's not a celebration at all. The game isn't over. It is halftime. We didn't lose, it's only halftime. And we had some success. But we also are making a lot of mistakes," Cuomo said Monday on TODAY.

"And when we go into the locker room as a nation and we talk about the first half, we better learn because if we don't learn the lessons, the second half is going to be worse, I can tell you that."

There are already signs of trouble ahead.

As of Monday, New York had identified an average of 7.4 new daily COVID-19 cases per every 100,000 residents over the prior week. 

That number remains one of the lowest in the nation, with only New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont faring better.

But New York's rate still represents a significant increase in recent weeks. 

New York had kept the number below 4 average daily cases per 100,000 residents from June 13 through Sept. 20, according to a USA TODAY Network New York analysis of state data. 

It’s risen steadily since. Prior to late last week, the state hadn’t eclipsed 7 since May 30.  That’s still far off from the height of the outbreak in March and April, when the average number reached a high of 49.7. 

Hospitalizations have more than doubled over the past six weeks, too. 

A total of 878 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in New York as of Sunday, according to Cuomo’s office. That’s a 114% increase from the 410 who were hospitalized Sept. 5, which was the state’s lowest number since early in the pandemic in March.

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A book tour and the criticism that has followed

Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared on the TODAY show on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, to promote his new book on New York's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

New York has also yet to fully detail the extent of the death toll associated with nursing homes. 

The state has yet to detail how many additional deaths of nursing home residents that have been transferred to hospitals. The state has only said how many died in the homes, attributing those who died in hospitals as hospital deaths -- which critics said has lowered the overall nursing home fatality statistics.

So the issue — and a since-rescinded March 25 order that kept nursing homes from keeping COVID-positive residents from returning — has dogged Cuomo on his virtual book tour as he stays in Albany.

"He really blew it. Could have put people in Convention Center or Hospital Ship. Didn’t have a clue!!!" Trump wrote Monday, referring to a Navy hospital ship docked in the New York harbor and a temporary hospital set up at the Javits Center during the height of the pandemic. 

A state Department of Health report commissioned by Cuomo found the majority of nursing home deaths were the result of workers and visitors bringing the virus into the homes, not the March order — which was ultimately reversed in May. 

In response to Trump, Cuomo senior adviser and spokesman Rich Azzopardi said Trump's "own federal guidelines prevented this during the height of the public health crisis and we had the beds when they relaxed them." The Navy ship, he noted, was never equipped for the level of care required by COVID-19 patients, he said.

"It's the rage-roids and other COVID relief drugs talking," Azzopardi tweeted at Trump.

In the book, Cuomo talks regularly about the troubled federal response and how he adapted to it -- initially trying to juggle pacifying Trump and cajoling more resources from him. 

But the Democratic governor wrote that he ultimately went a different path with Trump who he met with at the White House and talked regularly to when the pandemic was squarely in New York.

"My only remaining option was to go the other way," Cuomo wrote about his ultimate negotiating tactic. "When Trump said he needed gratitude, he was exposing his insatiable need for affirmation. Going the other way meant openly criticizing him."

So Cuomo added, "If he needed affirmation, it meant he couldn’t take criticism. My weapon was to criticize his failure and neglect. I did it often and loudly. He hated criticism and couldn’t handle it, and this discomfort caused him to deliver more for New York than we would have otherwise received. A sick, disturbing, unethical federal posture, but in battle we pursue the strategy that wins."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared on CBS This Morning on Oct. 11, 2020, to promote his new book on the state's coronavirus response.

On CBS Sunday Morning, Cuomo was interviewed alongside his three daughters, all in their 20s and all who lived at the Executive Mansion in Albany with him during the height of the pandemic in New York.

“Sometimes he, he would come home, and you could see it on him,” says Cara Kennedy Cuomo, 25. “And you would hear – sort of this big deep breath that he takes. And then you would know that he is stressed.”

The book has also fueled a new round of rumors about whether Cuomo has presidential ambitions or might be interested in being a top aide to Joe Biden, if he beats Trump in November.

An Axios report suggested Cuomo might in the mix for U.S. attorney general if Biden wins.

But Cuomo again denied any interest in returning to Washington, where he served as U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Clinton administration. 

“I'm not running for President, I'm not running for Vice President, I don't want to go to Washington," Cuomo said on TODAY.

"I just am giving you the straight advice as your Governor and that's where I am.”

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Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany