Mar 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Report: Gov. Cuomo prioritized family members for COVID testing

Combination images of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Combination images of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images/Brendan McDermid-Pool/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allegedly gave family members including CNN anchor Chris Cuomo "special access" to state-administered COVID-19 tests in early 2020, the Washington Post first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: State officials are barred from using their positions to gain privileges for themselves or others under New York's constitution. Cuomo's office pushed back on the allegations in an emailed statement, with senior adviser Rich Azzopard saying, "We should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past."

  • It's alleged "high-ranking state health officials" conducted the tests at a time when "the seriousness of the virus was still becoming clear to the broader public and testing was not widely available to most people," per the New York Times.
  • It's the latest in a raft of allegations against the beleaguered governor, who's also facing investigations over sexual misconduct allegations and his handling of COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

For the record: Cuomo denies the earlier allegations and has rejected calls from senior Democrats and others to resign.

Latest allegations: Chris Cuomo, who tested positive for the coronavirus last March, allegedly "benefited from the priority testing program," according to WashPost, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

  • The CNN anchor "was swabbed by a top New York Department of Health doctor, who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family," the Post reported.
  • "The same doctor, Eleanor Adams, now a top adviser to the state health commissioner, also was enlisted to test multiple other Cuomo family members, according to two people familiar with the program," according to the Post.
  • Citing two people, WashPost reported state police troopers helped rush the test to an Albany state public health laboratory and some lab staff worked well past their shift that night "to process results of those close to Cuomo" before quietly returning the results to the family members.

What they're saying: CNN spokesperson Matt Dornic said in an emailed statement, "We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees.  

  • "However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would."

Cuomo's office did not address the specific allegations directly. But Azzopardi said the Cuomo administration went "above and beyond to get people testing" in the early days of the pandemic.

  • Azzopardi said this included "in some instances going to people's homes, and door to door ... to take samples from those believed to have been exposed to COVID in order to identify cases and prevent additional one."
  • "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," Azzopardi said.
  • There was "a heavy emphasis on contact tracing," according to Azzopardi.

N.Y. State Department of Health spokesperson Gary Holmes said in an emailed statement, "You're asking professionals who took an oath to protect a patient’s privacy to violate that oath and compromise their integrity. 

"More than 43 million New Yorkers have been tested, and commenting on any of them would be a serious violation of medical ethics.  We’ve built a nation-leading testing infrastructure to ensure that anybody who needs a test could get one.  That work continues today."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with CNN's comment.

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