Corruption

Cuomo Reportedly Secured Special Treatment for Family Members and VIPs During Early Days of Pandemic

He should've focused on containing nursing home COVID spread, not getting VIP treatment for penthouse-dwelling Manhattanites (and his own family members).

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For most New Yorkers, the early part of the pandemic came with fear, uncertainty, and sirens growing more regular with each passing day. There was limited testing if you thought you'd been exposed, and long wait times if you did manage to nab one of those precious few tests.

But not if your last name starts with a C and ends with an uomo! The Albany Times Union reported last night that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state's top health officials to prioritize COVID testing for "the governor's relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration" such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and Port Authority heads (as well as the wife of one of them).

If you felt inclined to summon every ounce of charity possible when assessing Cuomo's purported corruptness, you could make the case that the MTA and Port Authority directors, as well as CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, interact with a large number of people in the course of doing their jobs, and that two out of the three play essential roles in keeping New York City up and running.

The Times Union reports that Gov. Cuomo's brother (Chris), mother, and sister received testing, sometimes multiple times, during the early part of the pandemic:

"The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to [Health Commissioner Howard] Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo's brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people.

'If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that's one thing — that's actually good,' one of the people with knowledge of the matter said. 'This was not that.'"

The Washington Post adds:

"The coronavirus test specimens were then rushed—at times driven by state police troopers—to the Wadsworth Center, a state public health lab in Albany, where they were processed immediately, the people said. At times, employees in the state health laboratory were kept past their shifts until late into the night to process results of those close to Cuomo, two people said."

Other reports have emerged saying the samples collected from Cuomo family members were marked "critical" and given priority treatment. But they weren't the only ones who were well-connected enough to receive special treatment.

"Separately, 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.

'We referred to them as "specials,"' the person said.

Those tests were then driven to the Wadsworth lab by state troopers for processing, according to the person with knowledge."

New York law does not allow the governor to secure special treatment or privileges for his family members or other well-connected VIPs. But Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, implied in a statement that these news reports are "insincere efforts to rewrite the past" and said that, in the early part of the 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."

This impotent attempt to cover for Cuomo does not answer questions about why the "critical" samples were rushed, why some Cuomo family members received multiple tests at a time when testing was so scarce, and whether members of the governor's family ultimately received special treatment as a result of their connections. The Cuomo administration has a troubling history of attempting to save face when they have clearly engaged in terrible wrongdoing.

At times, CNN has admitted that Chris Cuomo is unfit to cover New York state's pandemic response (and unfit to interview his own brother on the air), due to the conflict of interest that stems from being related to the governor, but at other times during the pandemic this moratorium has been lifted, allowing some cringey Cuomo-on-Cuomo coverage. It's concerning that the TV anchor himself was the recipient of privileged treatment—sitting on a bombshell story, too—that he did not disclose to viewers. (It's unclear whether he disclosed this preferential treatment to his employer.) Cuomo has recused himself from covering the sexual assault allegations that have surfaced against the New York governor, a partial admission that conflicts of interest ought to be taken seriously.

Of course, Gov. Cuomo has been adding scandals to his tab lately, knowing he probably won't ever have to settle up. At least eight women have accused him of sexual assault or harassment. When vaccines were first being distributed, Cuomo told providers he'd fine them $1 million if they let anyone hop the state-mandated queue, resulting in some providers throwing out soon-to-expire doses instead of administering them to the eagerly waiting masses. His March 25 directive (issued a year ago, to the day) potentially resulted in the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents—a death toll he then attempted to cover up, inviting an investigation from the state's attorney general.

Cuomo's spokesman is right that we shouldn't "rewrite the past." But there's no rewriting necessary to understand that the governor has engaged in corrupt and disgraceful behavior at every twist and turn; behavior that has resulted in ordinary New Yorkers getting shafted—or worse, killed.