Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s daughter received priority COVID testing in April, just days after the governor came under fire for arranging them for his family a year earlier.
Mariah Kennedy Cuomo and her boyfriend Tellef Lundevall submitted priority COVID tests to a state run site in Albay on April 3, according to The New York Times.
The tests — referred to as ‘specials’ in the New York State Health Department —were rushed to the state’s premier lab, Wadsworth Center, and processed within just a few hours.
Health officials at the site called the move frustrating, considering testing was readily available statewide at the time.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daughter, Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, right, received a priority COVID test before visiting her father for Easter, the New York Times reports
Special tests are supposed to be used for urgent cases, including ones linked to a outbreak, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Times reported.
State officials said they were necessary for Mariah and her boyfriend because they were going to see the governor for the Easter weekend and there was no one available to do on-site testing, according to the New York Post.
They said the governor’s visitors are ‘routinely’ tested on a portable rapid test machine at the State Capitol or at the Governor’s Mansion, but nobody was around to operate it because it was a holiday weekend.
Elkan Abramowitz, a private lawyer representing Cuomo, told the Times that it was the ‘proper protocol.’
‘They were going to come in contact with the governor,’ he said. ‘It would be a proper exercise of discretion to give priority testing to anybody who came in contact with the governor.’
The governor had come under fire just days before his daughter and her boyfriend received the priority tests for providing these tests to other family members, including his brother, Chris (right and mother, Matilda, (center)
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 daughters visited Matilda for Mother’s Day this year
But the governor had come under fire just days before his daughter and her boyfriend received the priority tests for providing these tests to other family members, including his brother, Chris, and mother, Matilda, as well as those with connections to his administration in the early days of the pandemic.
The medical officials enlisted to do the testing – often done at private residences – included Dr Eleanor Adams, a Harvard Medical School graduate who has since become a special adviser to Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, The Albany Times Union reported.
Testing on Cuomo’s family members came at the height of the pandemic when ordinary New Yorkers struggled to get access to screenings.
Gov. Cuomo’s brother Chris announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 31. Health officials reportedly traveled to his Long Island home to carry out testing, although it is not clear exactly when. Chris, who the host of Cuomo Prime Time, already had access to testing through his work at CNN, along with the rest of the network’s employees.
The report by Albany Times Union also stated that Gov. Cuomo’s mother, Matilda Cuomo, and one of his three sisters also received test early in the pandemic.
The Times reports that Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa secured a priority COVID test for her father whom she was living with at the time
‘If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that’s one thing — that’s actually good,’ a source familiar with the matter said. ‘This was not 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, were both given priority testing. Both of their wives were also given priority testing, along with members of the media, state legislators and their staff.
An official in Cuomo’s office said of the priority testing: ‘It’s being a little bit distorted with like a devious intent. … We made sure to test people they believed were exposed. All of this was being done in good faith in an effort to trace the virus.’
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, said that to suggest that there was preferential treatment an ‘insincere effort to rewrite the past.’
Another source said that the ‘critical samples’ – what Cuomo’s family and close ties were referred as – had their samples moved to the top of the line at the Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany, New York.
Staff members at Wadsworth were told to stay at the laboratory until the results could be processed — sometimes into the early hours of the morning.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, 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
A prominent New York lobbyist, and father of Cuomo’s senior aide Melissa DeRosa, also received one of these priority tests in March 2020, the Times revealed.
State officials told the paper that Melissa had contacted the State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker about her father, Giorgio, after she learned that he had met with a client who, days after their meeting, was hospitalized with COVID.
She had been staying with her father at the time, officials said, and Zucker decided Giorgio should be tested as a priority because of his daughter’s close and regular contact with the governor and others involved in the state’s pandemic response.
He got an appointment at a temporary testing tent at the Albany Medical Center in the third week of March 2020, and his test was rushed to Wadsworth where it was processed within a matter of hours.
The testing site was open to the public, but appointments were difficult to come by.
Azzopardi insisted, however, ‘the virus had nothing to do with occupation.’
‘It’s all about documented exposure and the capability to spread it more,’ he said.
State Attorney General Letitia James has previously called on the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate whether Cuomo abused testing protocols in getting his family and friends priority tests, and federal prosecutors have since started an investigation into the priority tests.
The Wadsworth Center in Albany is the state’s premier testing site, where employees could work into the wee hours of the morning running priority tests