In just a few months, Democrat Andrew Cuomo went from being “the star governor” to one of the most reviled officials. Cuomo, who won an Emmy for his “response to the coronavirus,” is now also on the verge of impeachment for the same reason.
Alleged influence peddling?
A new scandal splashes New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who along with his Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, ordered to prioritize their families for coronavirus testing.
A Washington Post report revealed that in addition to demanding priority for family members and allies, Cuomo also ordered that lab tests be given special treatment.
Cuomo’s order came at the beginning of the pandemic, when there were still difficulties in applying the tests and there were great limitations to analyze hundreds of tests per day.
According to the newspaper, on many occasions the state deployed doctors to homes to perform the tests, which were then escorted to the lab in Albany by state troopers in an attempt to speed up the process.
The Post reports that at the lab, samples were handled with secrecy and marked only with initials or numbers.
The Albany Times-Union revealed that family members who allegedly received preferential testing included Cuomo’s brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, as well as his mother and at least one of his sisters.
According to reports, the governor’s brother went so far as to be tested at his Long Island home and each of the “VIP” tests were referred to as “critical samples” and were given priority over others.
Among the well-known figures who also underwent priority testing in the early days of the pandemic were Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and his wife; as well as Patrick Foye, director of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and his wife. Some members of the media and unidentified state legislators were also screened on a priority basis.
Officials deny allegations
Cuomo administration officials denied receiving preferential treatment. Richard Azzopardi, said the allegations were “disingenuous efforts to rewrite the past.”
“In the early days of this pandemic, when there was a big emphasis on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people tested, even in some cases, 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 to identify cases and prevent additional ones,” Azzopardi 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 ability to spread it further,” he added.
Not Cuomo’s first COVID-19 scandal
This is not the first scandal surrounding Cuomo related to coronavirus and testing or vaccination. Last March 15, it came to light that administration officials had allegedly made intimidating calls.
New York’s “vaccine czar,” Larry Schwartz, reportedly hinted that dropping Cuomo’s support would have consequences for vaccine distribution.
Schwartz, who heads New York’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, called county executives to gauge loyalty to the governor. Schwartz admitted to making the calls, but stated that he did not bring up the issue of vaccines during the conversations.
So far, no Cuomo administration official has explained why Schwartz, who is in charge of vaccine distribution, would take the time to call and learn about executive support for the governor.
Concealed deaths figures
In addition to this scandal of alleged “ethics violations”, there is also the scandal of nursing homes, as the true number of deceased elderly people has been deliberately concealed.
During the pandemic, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to receive patients with positive COVID-19. As a result, cases multiplied and caused the death of thousands of sexagenarians.
The facts highlighted in reports by Attorney General Letitia James revealed that more than 15,000 people died because of Cuomo’s order. This is the same regulation that, by the way, also applied to nursing homes for the disabled and that would also have led to the death of hundreds of them.
The scandals come at the same time Cuomo faces calls to resign after eight women, including his current and former aides, accused him of sexual harassment or misconduct. The New York State Attorney General’s Office and the state Assembly are investigating the claims.
Likewise, the New York governor faces investigation by federal authorities into his handling of the COVID-19 nursing home crisis.