New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made special arrangements prioritizing tests for his family members, including his mother and CNN host brother Chris Cuomo, and other well-connected figures for Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic, according to a new report. Cuomo's family members got special access to state-administered coronavirus tests, dispatching a top state doctor and other state health officials to their homes, according to a Washington Post report.
The news comes amid a spate of scandals surrounding the New York Governor, including eight women who have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him. Cuomo's office is also facing investigations from the US Attorney's office for underreporting the actual number of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.
According to the Washington Post report, testing on Cuomo's family members came at the height of the pandemic when ordinary New Yorkers struggled to get access to screenings. However, his family members were not only given priority but Cuomo made sure that doctors from state facilities visit their homes personally.
The medical officials enlisted to do the testing included Dr Eleanor Adams, a Harvard Medical School graduate who has since become a special adviser to Health Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker, the Albany Times Union reported. As part of the arrangement made by Cuomo, a state lab immediately reportedly processed the results of his family members who were tested, even as average New Yorkers continued to struggle get tested in the early days of the pandemic due to scarcity of resources.
The allegations are supported by facts given that the Governor's brother Chris announced that he tested positive for Covid-19 on March 31, which were the early days of the pandemic. Health officials reportedly traveled to his Long Island home to carry out testing, although it is not clear exactly when. Chris, who the host of Cuomo Prime Time, already had access to testing through his work at CNN, along with the rest of the network's employees.
Misuse of Power
The Albany Times Union report also mentions that Cuomo's mother, Matilda Cuomo, and one of his three sisters also received tests during the early days of the pandemic. One source said that the "critical samples" - what Cuomo's family and close ties were referred as - had their samples moved to the top of the line at the Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany, New York.
Besides his family members Cuomo also made special arrangements for other influential New Yorkers. Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Patrick J Foye, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, were among those who were given priority testing. Both of their wives were also given priority testing, along with members of the media, state legislators and their staff.
The misuse of state resources to benefit people close to the governor raises serious ethical questions on Cuomo. New York law prohibits state officials from using their positions to secure privileges for themselves or others.
The report comes at a time when Cuomo, a Democrat, faces calls to resign over accusations of sexual harassment and assault form at least eight women and disclosures that his office under-reported nursing home deaths from the pandemic. And the way things are shaping up for Cuomo, it will only make the situation difficult for him in the coming days.
However, Cuomo's office has once again denied the allegations. "We should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past. 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," Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said in a statement to Reuters in response to the Washington Post article.