Top members of the New York Department of Health were allegedly instructed last year by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to carry out prioritized COVID-19 testing on Cuomo's family members as well as influential individuals with connections to his administration, the Albany Times-Union reported citing "three people with direct knowledge of the matter."
"Members of Cuomo's family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said," according to the outlet.
The executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, his spouse, the leader of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and his spouse all received priority coronavirus testing, while individuals in the media, state lawmakers and their staff members were tested in a similar manner, according to the outlet.
The new allegation comes as the embattled governor faces allegations of sexual harassment, criticism over issues pertaining to nursing homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for his resignation.
"Officials in the Cuomo administration said the testing in those early days of the pandemic in March 2020 was not preferential, and they noted public nurses were being driven to private residences in New Rochelle — the site of the state's first outbreak — to test people who were symptomatic or who had been exposed to the virus," the outlet reported. "During that period, State Police troopers were largely being tasked with driving those samples to the Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany, which was initially the primary testing spot for coronavirus."
"It's being a little bit distorted with like a devious intent. ... We made sure to test people they believed were exposed," an official with the governor's office stated on background, according to the outlet. "All of this was being done in good faith in an effort to trace the virus."
Richard Azzopardi, who serves as a senior adviser to Cuomo, described the allegations as "insincere efforts to rewrite the past."
"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," Azzopardi said, according to the outlet. "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."
The outlet said that one of the sources said that individuals with close connections to Cuomo, including family members, had their samples advanced to the top of the pile at Wadsworth, and that the samples were referenced as "critical samples."