New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker directed high-level medical personnel to place a priority on testing the governor’s family and key allies of his administration for the COVID-19 virus in the early days of the outbreak last year, the Albany Times Union reported citing three unidentified sources.
Cuomo’s mother, brother and one of his sisters were personally tested by top health officials, some several times, the sources said according to the Times Union.
Those recruited for the testing included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who in August became a special adviser to Zucker. She traveled to Cuomo's brother Chris at his residence on Long Island to conduct a test, according to the sources.
"If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that’s one thing — that’s actually good," one source said. "This was not that."
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, denied the accusation of prioritization calling it “insincere efforts” and claiming the testing was part of the state’s contract tracing program.
"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.”
However, the sources told the Times Union that samples taken from the governor’s family and other key government officials, such as the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rick Cotton, and his wife, and the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Patrick Foye, and his wife, were taken by state police to the Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany.
That was the primary testing location for the novel coronavirus and the specimens were designated “critical samples” for expedited handling.
Additionally, one of the sources claimed that officials such as Adams, who was one of those tasked with controlling the state's first outbreak in New Rochelle, where she previously had a private medical practice, were pulled off their primary duties to conduct the tests, called "sampling missions."
"To be doing sort of direct clinical work was a complete time-suck away from their other duties," the person said. "It was like wartime."
The report comes amid other allegations against Cuomo, who is accused of rewriting reports to disguise the number of deaths from COVID-19-related causes at nursing homes and that he sexually harassed subordinates and other women.
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