A top state physician allegedly was ordered to carry out several hours-long visits to Andrew Cuomo‘s brother Chris as part of the New York Governor’s VIP Covid testing scheme.
The embattled governor’s relatives including his fashion designer brother-in-law Kenneth Cole and high-powered friends are said to have received preferential treatment for tests at the start of the pandemic when resources were thin.
Medical staff members claimed they had to interrupt important Covid tasks to carry out tests for the ‘inner circle’ of people connected to Cuomo.
The samples were then rushed by state troopers to a laboratory and results were often returned within hours, while other New Yorkers had to wait for a week, according to The Washington Post.
Nurses said Cuomo’s family was ‘treated like royalty’, adding: ‘I didn’t understand why they were able to jump the line.’
People with firsthand knowledge of the priority scheme told the newspaper that figures with links to Cuomo could bypass the burdened testing process in New York last March.
Chris Cuomo, the CNN host, is said to have been tested with his family in his Hamptons home by Eleanor Adams, a top state physician who was tasked with coordinating testing in nursing homes.
Sources quoted by The Washington Post said she visited multiple times, often for several hours, despite her senior role in the Department of Health to manage testing issues for high-risk settings in the state.
Adams, who is now a senior adviser to Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, allegedly was dispatched to Chris’s home in Southampton, 90 miles away from New York City.
The presenter announced he tested positive on March 31 last year, and later revealed his wife Cristina and their 14-year-old son had contracted the virus.
Friends and relatives of New York Gov Andrew Cuomo were given priority Covid tests at the start of the pandemic, nurses have claimed
A top state physician was allegedly ordered to carry out several hours-long visits to Andrew Cuomo’s brother Chris
It was revealed last week that Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Patrick J. Foye, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and their wives were given priority testing, as well as Cuomo’s mother Matilda and one of his sisters.
The latest revelations come on top of myriad scandals surrounding the governor, including eight women who have now come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him.
The US Attorney’s Office and the FBI are also investigating his office for undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
Cuomo is facing an impeachment probe by New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, as well as an FBI investigation into the scandals.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo’s fellow Democrat, said: ‘The recent reports alleging there was preferential treatment given for COVID-19 testing are troubling. While we do not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter, it’s imperative that JCOPE look into it immediately.’
The embattled governor’s relatives including his fashion designer brother-in-law Kenneth Cole and high-powered friends are said to have received preferential treatment
Officials who worked at testing sites in March last year during the early chaotic weeks of the pandemic said that a system to give special treatment was implemented.
The high-profile figures were referred to as ‘priorities’, ‘specials’, ‘inner circle’ or ‘criticals’, five people involved with the scheme, including three nurses, claimed.
Two staff at the New Rochelle hub said the priority system started with people passing notes with testing data to hide the identity of priority patients.
These requests became a top priority, even surpassing people ranked highest for possible exposure to Covid in a separate general database.
The priority status of more than 100 people was then recorded in an online data sheet which was kept separate from the database for the general public.
Staff had to interrupt other tasks including scheduling testing, entering results and contacting patients about their Covid results.
People with firsthand knowledge of the priority scheme said figures with links to Cuomo could bypass the burdened testing process in New York. Pictured: people lining up for tests in New York last March
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi has denied the claims, saying: ‘There was no “VIP” program as the Washington Post describes — when priority was given, it was to nurses, guardsmen, state workers and other government officials central to the pandemic response and those they were in direct contact with, as well as individuals believed to have been exposed to COVID who had the capability to spread it further and impact vital operations.’
New York Department of Health spokesman Gary Holmes also said the allegations were ‘not factually accurate’, saying healthcare workers tried to test people on a priority of how many they might have exposed to the virus.
But medical staff claimed they were told to provide special treatment for people and were even dispatched from an operations center in New Rochelle to test patients in private homes.
One nurse who worked at two state-run testing sites said: ‘I’m trained that there is no such thing as a preferential medicine. We don’t say “this person is more important so their results are more important.” That’s just not fair.’
Gov. Cuomo receives a nasal swab Covid-19 test during a news conference in the Red Room of the New York State Capitol Building in Albany, New York, U.S., on Sunday, May 17, 2020
The nurse said people were pushed to the front of the line because of their connections, not for any medical reasons, and staff were told the orders came from the ‘governor’s chamber’.
Another nurse claimed staff would frantically prepare for the arrival of VIP figures at state-run centers in spring last year to rush their samples via state troopers to the Wadsworth Center, an Albany lab.
Another whistleblower revealed how staff helped Kenneth Cole who is married to Cuomo’s sister Maria.
Azzopardi insisted: ‘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.
Testing on Cuomo’s family members came at the height of the pandemic when ordinary New Yorkers struggled to get access to screenings. Cuomo and his mother in 2016
‘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 revelations come at a perilous time for Cuomo who has now been accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior by eight different women.
Alyssa McGrath became the eighth accuser – and the first named current aide – as she told The New York Times the governor ogled her body, called her and her co-worker ‘mingle mamas’ and asked about her lack of a wedding ring.
This came after another female aide, who has remained anonymous, claimed he called her to his Executive Mansion last year, reached under her blouse and fondled her.
Letitia James’ office is investigating the allegations and an impeachment investigation was also launched by state Democrats, while top New York lawmakers including Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer are demanding he resign.
The governor has said he ‘never touched anyone inappropriately’ but apologized for making anyone feel ‘uncomfortable’ and has vowed he will not stand down.
McGrath told the NY Times of several alleged incidents of sexual harassment while working for the governor.
She claimed Cuomo looked down her shirt to compliment her on her necklace, told her she’s beautiful in Italian and kissed her on the forehead during an office Christmas party in 2019.
She described a pattern of flirtatious behavior which began not long after she started working for him in May 2018.
A total of eight women have now come forward to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, with two of the accusers still working for him. Alyssa McGrath (pictured) became the first named current aide Friday
‘He has a way of making you feel very comfortable around him, almost like you’re his friend,’ McGrath said.
‘But then you walk away from the encounter or conversation, in your head going, ‘I can’t believe I just had that interaction with the governor of New York’.’
McGrath also doubled down on the allegations made by her coworker – the anonymous accuser – saying the woman had told her about the incident.
The unnamed woman, who was Cuomo’s sixth accuser, has made the most damning accusation against the governor to date claiming he groped her breast in the Executive Mansion.
‘She froze when he started doing that stuff to her,’ McGrath told The New York Times.
McGrath (pictured) claimed Cuomo looked down her shirt to compliment her on her necklace during a meeting with him
Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide, came out in December with allegations against him – she further detailed her experience in a February post to Medium
McGrath said the co-worker told her Cuomo had asked her not to talk about the alleged incident.
‘He told her specifically not to tell me,’ McGrath said.
Cuomo’s administration last week hired outside counsel to investigate the specific groping claim.
He has denied inappropriately touching anyone but said he may have inadvertently made some women feel uncomfortable in the past by hugging and kissing them as a greeting.
Cuomo was asked last week to respond to critics who say he can no longer do his job as governor amid the probe into the harassment accusations.
‘I say it is clearly not true; the reality is the exact opposite,’ he said.
Anna Ruch (left) and Ana Liss both accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior
Karen Hinton (left), a press aide, and Jessica Bakeman accused Cuomo of inappropriate actions
Charlotte Bennett, 25, accused Cuomo of propositioning her in his office in June
Cuomo has also been slammed for his treatment of nursing homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo issued a directive on March 25 last year ordering nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients because of a lack of space in hospitals.
The move has been slammed for costing many lives given the elderly were especially vulnerable and that nursing homes were hotbeds for the virus.
The ruling was reversed on May 10, barring nursing homes from accepting COVID-19 patients without a negative test first.
Cuomo also vowed to reform the state’s nursing homes – as he continues to also come under fire over the COVID-19 nursing home deaths scandal. Pictured, a COVID-19 patient at a Broolyln nursing home last April
Relatives of those who died of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes gathered on Sunday in Brooklyn, New York
This January, New York AG Letitia James said the state had downplayed the number of deaths of nursing home residents by 50 percent.
The death toll was actually 15,000, up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.
The new figures mean around one-seventh of the state’s entire nursing home population of 90,000 have been killed by the virus.
The state’s total death toll was unchanged following the revelation as the deaths had been counted in overall figures.
The change in number was down to nursing home residents who had been transported to hospital where they then died not being counted in the nursing home death tally.
In February Cuomo was then accused of intentionally hiding the data and federal prosecutors began investigating a possible cover-up. Dozens of people gathered Sunday at the We Care Memorial Wall in Brooklyn at the weekend holding signs saying they were ‘Cuomo Covid Orphans’ because of his nursing home policies.