'Special' treatment: Feds looking into Gov. Cuomo's prioritization of COVID tests for friends and family

'Special' treatment: Feds looking into Gov. Cuomo's prioritization of COVID tests for friends and family

We first got word that something like this might have happened back in March. At the time, the Governor’s office quickly put out a non-denial denial which said in part:

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.

Notice they never said they didn’t do special favors for the governor’s friends and family. This afternoon the NY Times reports that is now being investigated by federal prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors have been looking into whether Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration granted special access to rapid coronavirus test results for the governor’s family and other influential people, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions…

Chris Cuomo and his family were tested several times in the pandemic’s early phase by a high-ranking health official who traveled to their Long Island home to take samples, which were then rushed by the state police to the Wadsworth laboratory in Albany…

For those deemed “specials,” staff members at Wadsworth were told to stay at the lab until the results could be processed, sometimes late into the night. Those who received this preferential treatment included the president of Regeneron, a pharmaceutical company based in Westchester County with longstanding ties to Mr. Cuomo. “Specials” often received their results by phone, within hours after giving their samples.

The fact that health officials were traveling to Chris Cuomo’s house to test his whole family seems like a big personal favor. Gov. Cuomo wasn’t required to see his brother in person. They don’t work together. They could have talked by phone if needed. And the Governor certainly didn’t need to send someone out to verify the health of the family on a priority basis when lots of people were unable to get a test at all. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cuomo team tries to spin this as anything other than special treatment.

Cuomo’s top adviser Melissa DeRosa also got priority testing for herself and her lobbyist father after he encountered someone who was later hospitalized with COVID. In that case, the testing was allegedly granted because Melissa DeRosa was in constant contact with the governor. I guess that makes sense as a precaution but it doesn’t explain why her father got priority as well. He wasn’t in constant contact with Cuomo. As the Times points out, that could be deemed a violation of state law:

No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or herself or others, including but not limited to, the misappropriation to himself, herself or to others of the property, services or other resources of the state for private business or other compensated non-governmental purposes.

I’ve honestly lost track of how many investigations are ongoing into Cuomo’s behavior. I still thing the one into his alleged sexual harassment in the workplace is the most serious. Unless it somehow turns out every one of those allegations are provably false his credibility is shot. I guess we’ll see if New Yorkers finally turn on him when a few of these investigations come to an end.

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