State Watch

Cuomo family members received special priority for COVID-19 testing: report

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) family members and other people with ties to the administration received priority COVID-19 testing last year, the Albany Times Union reported on Wednesday. 

Three people with direct knowledge of the matter told the Times Union that Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker instructed high-level officials at the New York State Department of Health to conduct prioritized testing for these individuals. Cuomo’s brother, mother and at least one of his sisters were among those tested by the officials. 

The health department officials would travel to private residences to complete the testing. These “sampling missions” had upset some of the officials, who were sometimes taken away from their work for the tests, according to one source. 

Two sources said Eleanor Adams, who became a special adviser to Zucker in August, tested Cuomo’s brother Chris Cuomo, who is a CNN anchor, in Long Island. Chris Cuomo tested positive for the coronavirus in late March.

“To be doing sort of direct clinical work was a complete time-suck away from their other duties,” one of the sources told the newspaper. “It was like wartime.”

One source told the Times Union that the tests from those considered close to the governor, called “critical samples,” would be moved to the front of the line at Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany. 

Cuomo administration officials told the newspaper that in March 2020 testing was not favorable to certain people, as public nurses were taken to private homes in New Rochelle to test people who had symptoms or close contact to COVID-19.

Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, labeled the allegations as “insincere efforts to rewrite the past” in a statement to The Hill.

“In the early days of this pandemic, when there was a heavy emphasis on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people testing — including in some instances going to people’s homes, and door-to-door in places like New Rochelle — to take samples from those believed to have been exposed to COVID in order to identify cases and prevent additional ones,” he said. 

“Among those we assisted were members of the general public, including legislators, reporters, state workers and their families who feared they had contracted the virus and had the capability to further spread it,” he added. 

New York State Department of Health spokesperson Gary Holmes said questions on the subject would effectively ask “professionals who took an oath to protect a patient’s privacy to violate that oath and compromise their integrity.”

“More than 43 million New Yorkers have been tested, and commenting on any of them would be a serious violation of medical ethics,” Holmes said in a statement to The Hill. “We’ve built a nation-leading testing infrastructure to ensure that anybody who needs a test could get one. That work continues today.”

Cuomo has faced calls to resign in recent weeks after at least seven women have come forward accusing the governor of sexual misconduct. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has launched an investigation into the allegations, and the New York State Assembly opened an impeachment probe earlier this month.

The governor has also been criticized for his administration’s handling of COVID-19 nursing home deaths. 

Tags Albany Times Union Andrew Cuomo Chris Cuomo Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 testing COVID-19 tests New York New York State Department of Health Pandemic

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