How Cuomo put a political loyalist in charge of New York’s vaccine rollout

Since Cuomo tapped him to oversee the state’s vaccine rollout in December, Schwartz has exerted singular influence on distribution of the vital doses across the state, according to people familiar with his role. He is involved in decisions about where vaccines go and where to locate highly sought mass-vaccination sites being rolled out by the state, they said.

Meanwhile, a task force on vaccine distribution commissioned by the governor has been largely dormant for the past month, while its 25 members — which include epidemiologists, professors, state officials, hospital executives and community leaders — have been caught off guard by some of the administration’s decisions, according to four people with knowledge of the task force, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of drawing the governor’s ire. There is no plan for another meeting, the people said, and they have been told not to discuss the agendas or the task force’s work.

Alicia Ouellette, dean of the Albany Law School and a leading bioethics expert who was appointed to the state task force last year, said she was unaware of how some of the state’s vaccine distribution plans had been formulated.

“I think a lot of the decisions are being made by a small number of people,” Ouellette said. “It’s my impression that is being made by a small team within the governor’s office.”