A new report revealed that while Andrew Cuomo‘s administration claimed there was “insufficient testing” for COVID-19, the governor ordered that family and friends did have priority access to testing for the virus.
According to the New York Post, in April 2020, Jack Wheeler, Steuben County manager, asked the administration to send tests for every nursing home resident in the jurisdiction. Following the request, the administration reportedly claimed there was still insufficient testing.
At that time the State Health Department only came through with supplies for one of the three facilities. “I’m furious because testing of the most vulnerable population should be the absolute priority” Wheeler told The Post.
“That high-level connected people had that luxury (of access to COVID-19 testing) when we couldn’t even get people in nursing homes tested is just infuriating,” he continued.
The county manager added that in the face of insufficient testing, he had to go to Steve Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, for more testing for a second nursing home.
It was Darlene Smith, Steuben County health director, who worked to get the evidence for the third nursing home.
“We had to beg, borrow, and steal basically and were able to get test kits from other counties,” Smith said. “Now knowing [that] what limited supply there was was being hoarded now for friends and family — it’s criminal. It’s just really hard to understand,” she added.
The newspaper was able to confirm the story with Acquario and Smith. However, the Cuomo administration denied that preferential treatment was given to people close to the governor.
Cuomo administration denies allegations
After learning of the new allegations, Department of Health spokesman Jonah Bruno said that “from the beginning, everything possible was done to protect the most vulnerable population” and added that there are those who make “insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”
The allegations of alleged preferential treatment to family and friends of the Cuomo administration will be part of an impeachment investigation against the governor.
Cuomo is under investigation for concealing numbers of deceased seniors in state nursing homes and is also under investigation for at least eight allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.