Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York gave his family and other high-profile people special access to coronavirus tests in the early days of the pandemic when most New Yorkers did not have access to them, sources told The Washington Post.
The Times Union, a newspaper based in the state capital, Albany, also reported Wednesday that sources said state health officials were explicitly directed by Cuomo and the state's health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, to prioritize Cuomo's relatives and other influential figures for testing.
One of the people who is said to have benefitted is the governor's younger brother, the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who had COVID-19 in March 2020.
The governor's mother and at least one of his sisters were also said to have received priority testing, some more than once, according to the Times Union.
State health officials visited the people's homes to administer the tests, which were immediately processed in a state lab to quickly deliver results, three people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Post. The outlet said the lab at the time was equipped to process only several hundred tests a day.
Under New York law, it is illegal for officials or state employees to use their position "to secure unwarranted privileges" for themselves or others.
In statements provided to Insider, officials said some testing was done at people's homes but did not name anyone specific, citing health-privacy laws and ethics.
"We should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past," Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Cuomo, said. "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.
"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 statement continued.
Sources told The Post that Chris Cuomo was one of the people who received a test, with a New York Department of Health doctor visiting the CNN anchor's home in the Hamptons on Long Island.
Gary Holmes, a Department of Health representative, did not provide names of people who received the tests, saying: "You're asking professionals who took an oath to protect a patient's privacy to violate that oath and compromise their integrity. More than 43 million New Yorkers have been tested, and commenting on any of them would be a serious violation of medical ethics."
In a statement to the Washington Post media critic Eric Wemple, a CNN representative said: "It is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would."
Insider has reached out to Chris Cuomo and CNN for comment.
The accusations over priority testing are the latest in a string of scandals circling the third-term governor of New York in recent weeks. Cuomo has been accused of sexual misconduct and criticized for his handling of nursing homes in the pandemic. He has also been involved in bridge-safety concerns.
Chris Cuomo has also received some criticisms for declining to cover his brother's scandals, despite praising the governor and even interviewing him on his prime-time show last year over his handling of the coronavirus.
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