Albany Times Union: NY health officials directed to prioritize COVID testing for Cuomo family members

Cuomo Under Fire

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — A new report says family members of Governor Cuomo were given special treatment and tested for COVID-19 by high-up health officials last year.

The Albany Times Union broke this story Wednesday evening.

The paper says Governor Cuomo directed state officials to test his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters.

It says in some cases, the testing happened at the homes of these family members.

A senior adviser to the governor says in the early days of the pandemic, the state went “above and beyond” to get people tested, including going into people’s homes.

He says those people included lawmakers, reporters, state workers and their families.

“We should avoid 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 — 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.”

Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to Governor Cuomo

Several Western New York lawmakers are calling for the allegation to be investigated. Democratic Senator Sean Ryan believes New York State Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro should look into the matter. Republican Senator Ed Rath agrees.

“Plain and simple, this is an abuse of power,” Rath said.

Lee Park, a spokesperson for Tagliafierro, said the Inspector General’s office has no comment.

A spokesperson for the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s recommended the Joint Commission on Public Ethics look into the reports.

“The recent reports alleging there was preferential treatment given for COVID-19 testing are troubling,” the OAG spokesperson said. “While we do not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter, it’s imperative that JCOPE look into it immediately.”

The Assembly Judiciary Committee is already overseeing an impeachment inquiry of Cuomo, investigating sexual harassment claims against him, his administration’s handling of nursing home data during the pandemic, and whether he withheld information regarding safety concerns on the Mario Cuomo Bridge. Republican Senator George Borrello said the committee should look into the latest allegation as well.

“It does speak to corruption,” Borrello said. “To me this is a clear example of corruption within the Cuomo Administration. It absolutely should be included as part of the impeachment process.”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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