In the early days of the pandemic, when cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and fears surrounding the coronavirus soared in New York, testing was exceedingly difficult to come by, due to the Trump administration’s failures to secure the proper supplies. But that challenge was not experienced by one prominent New York family. According to reports from the Washington Post and Albany Times-Union, Governor Andrew Cuomo ensured special access in mid-March to a COVID-testing program for members of his political inner circle and family, including his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo.
According to the Post, those who gained access to a state-administered testing program received home visits from New York health officials, who would conveniently administer the tests, then rush them to a state-run lab in Albany where the “critical samples” would be processed immediately. The Times-Union reported the governor himself determined who was on the special list. When Chris Cuomo was tested, top New York Department of Health doctor Eleanor Adams traveled to his $2.5 million house in the Hamptons to collect samples from him and his family.
In a statement, a CNN spokesman said, “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.”
Adams, who also tested other members of Cuomo’s family, is now a top adviser to the state health commissioner. Occasionally, samples were escorted by state police troopers to the lab, where employees had to stay past the end of their shifts to process them.
Like the other political crises the governor is currently facing, the decision to send a public-health expert to test his family amid the apex of the pandemic in New York involves an abuse of power; at the time, officials in the Cuomo administration claimed testing was not preferential. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the governor, Rich Azzopardi, did not apologize for the program, saying that “we should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”
The reports of the special access to coronavirus testing come as the governor makes it clear that he intends to try and weather the scandals surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct and a cover-up of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes; he is currently facing a sexual misconduct investigation conducted by New York attorney general Letitia James, an impeachment probe in the state assembly, and a reported FBI investigation into the data on nursing-home deaths. But the revelation on Wednesday will draw scrutiny back to his many abuses of his station, just as Cuomo gained a public-relations win with the news that he and state lawmakers had agreed on a deal that would bring legal marijuana to New York.