Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) arranged for family members, including his brother CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, to receive special access to state COVID-19 tests early in the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports.
Members of Cuomo's family, including the governor's mother, Matilda Cuomo, his brother, and at least one of his sisters, were tested by top health department officials at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, sources told the Albany Times-Union. The tests, which were extremely hard to come by at the time, were done last March by high-level members of the state health department, often at private homes, according to the report.
Top New York Department of Health doctor Eleanor Adams reportedly visited Chris Cuomo's home in the Hamptons to collect samples from him and his family. The CNN anchor announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on March 31.
The Democratic governor's family and other "well-connected figures" were known as "specials" or "VIPs," according to the Washington Post. Beneficiaries of the special testing allegedly include the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rick Cotton and his wife, as well as the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Patrick Foye and his wife.
"Nurses working for the state were dispatched in two-person swabbing teams to test 'dozens' of VIPs, some living in penthouses in Manhattan, according to one person with direct knowledge," the Washington Post reported.
State troopers rushed the tests to the Wadsworth Center, a state public health lab in Albany. Once the tests were at the Wadsworth Center, one of the early facilities to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for COVID-19 testing, they were reportedly immediately processed. Employees at the Wadsworth Center were sometimes asked to stay late after their shifts to process the results of people of Cuomo's "VIPs."
"The person said the names of the patients were closely held by an assistant working for state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and obscured throughout the priority testing process, often through the use of numbers or letter initials or aliases," the Post reported. "Such a process also skirted the effort to collect demographic data used to drive public health decisions in response to the deadly pandemic."
The New York Times confirmed the reports of Cuomo's family benefiting from special prioritized access to COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic.
Andrew Cuomo spokesperson and adviser Rich Azzopardi called the accusations an "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 — 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," Azzopardi said in a statement. "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."
New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin called on Cuomo to resign.
"This latest report of prioritizing his family members for COVID testing at private residences conducted by state Health Department officials and having their tests moved to the front of the line at Wadsworth adds to a very long list of reasons why Cuomo's Gotta Go," Zeldin said in a statement.