I suppose we really couldn’t go an entire week without another scandal involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. So if you’re craving a fix for your Cuomo badness withdrawal symptoms, here you go. It’s being reported that last spring, during the beginning of the pandemic, the Governor dispatched officials and law enforcement to ensure that his own family members had rapid, prioritized access to COVID testing. The alleged list of beneficiaries included his mother, his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, and one of their sisters. Other powerful political influencers in Cuomo’s inner circle were also allegedly beneficiaries of this favoritism. We’ll get to the provenance of this reporting in a moment, but here’s the high-level summary from the NY Post.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker allegedly directed that members of the governor’s family and bigwigs with ties to his administration should get priority coronavirus testing last year, a report said Wednesday.
Relatives of Cuomo, including his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, one of their sisters and their mom, Matilda Cuomo, were tested several times during the early days of the pandemic, the Albany Times-Union reported.
The testing was done by high-level members of the state Health Department, often at private homes, the newspaper said, citing three sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
Before getting to the details of just how bad this story looks, if true, I wanted to note the original sourcing for the reporting. This didn’t come from the Post’s own reporters. This story was uncovered and published by the Albany Times-Union, based in the state capital. Their reporter relies on anonymous sources described as “three people with direct knowledge of the matter,” so take this as you will. But I will say that the Times-Union has been around as long as I can remember and they have been cultivating contacts inside of Albany and the offices of all of New York’s political power players forever, so they’re considered to be quite reliable in such matters.
I should also note that the Governor quickly issued a denial through one of his spokespeople. Well… they sort of denied it. They never said that these favored people weren’t tested, mind you. They just said that they were testing people all over the place. Here’s the key part of the semi-denial from Rich Azzopardi.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Not once does Azzopardi even attempt to say that Cuomo’s mother, brother, and sister weren’t tested multiple times during that period. He’s just providing a laundry list of groups of people that did get tested. I suppose we’re just supposed to assume that Cuomo’s family and inner circle all just coincidentally wound up on the list, right? Man… coincidences follow this guy around like a herd of cats trailing a tuna vendor.
If the Times-Union’s sources are correct, this story looks very bad for Cuomo, even if there wasn’t an underlying crime committed. Speaking as a resident of upstate New York I can tell you that finding any place with test kits during that period was almost impossible. This was all happening just after my wife and I returned from CPAC and learned that at least one person there had tested positive after the event ended, so we were concerned. We called around to our doctor’s office and local pharmacies and clinics and had no luck. (To this day I’ve never been tested, but then, I’ve really never shown any symptoms.)
The amount of effort expended and the resources involved in getting Cuomo’s family and cronies tested is simply offensive. Assuming the reports are accurate, several of these people received multiple tests, not just one. Cuomo didn’t just dispatch any old nurse or worker bee to administer the tests either. He sent Dr. Eleanor Adams, a Harvard Medical School epidemiologist and a special adviser to State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. Nothing but the best for this crew, I guess.
But the offensive details don’t stop there. The New York State Police were dispatched to drive the medical teams to these people’s homes to administer the tests. Then the troopers were sent to deliver the test kits from places as far away as Chris Cuomo’s residence on Long Island to Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany. Once there, the kits from Cuomo’s kin and cronies were moved to the head of the line for processing, having been identified as “critical samples.” While other, less influential people were waiting for days to find out if they might be on death’s doorstep, these people were getting their results in hours.
As I said, perhaps none of this was technically illegal. But hoo boy… it smells to high heaven. Keep in mind that this was in the very early days of the pandemic when everyone was confused and frightened. There were no “instant test” kits back then like we have now. A swab had to be collected and then sent to one of the few places that were set up to process them. It would be months before massive, widespread testing was available. But Cuomo allegedly put his friends and family at the head of the line.
New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, used this news to once again call on Cuomo to resign. But let’s be real here folks. If he didn’t resign after the nursing home massacre debacle and the seven allegations of sexual harassment, why would he quit now?