[guest post by JVW]
It’s an all-too-believable yet also unbelievable story of privilege:
High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to 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.
The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence on Long Island, according to the two people.
Of course Team Cuomo disagrees, and wants to try and assure us that everyone who was exposed to the virus received the same red carpet treatment:
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. 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 in Cuomo’s office said on background. “All of this was being done in good faith in an effort to trace the virus.”
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, characterized the allegations of preferential treatment 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. “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.”
Geography note: New Rochelle, where the initial outbreak took place, is not on Long Island, where the Christopher Cuomo family resides. If Mr. Azzopardi is being truthful (and given whom he works for, it’s highly unlikely) about the contact tracing in a variety of communities, then we would expect that all of Chris Cuomo’s colleagues at CNN also had doctors and nurses appearing on their doorsteps with testing kits in hand, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that didn’t actually happen. The Albany paper quotes a source who disagrees with Mr. Azzopardi’s exculpatory assessment:
Still, one of the people familiar with the matter said that the people with close ties to the governor, including his relatives, would have their samples moved to the front of the line at Wadsworth and be given priority. They were referred to as “critical samples.”
Another person familiar with the matter said the “sampling missions” had unsettled some of the high-level health department officials tasked with collecting the samples at private residences — including Adams, who had previously worked in the health department’s New York City regional office for the Healthcare Epidemiology & Infection Control Program.
“To be doing sort of direct clinical work was a complete time-suck away from their other duties,” the person said. “It was like wartime.”
I’m not a big fan of anonymous officials making strong claims of administration wrongdoing, but given what we know about the bullying mafia-like (yeah, I went there) atmosphere in the Cuomo Administration I can, in this instance, completely understand it.
And the tiresome gaggle of twits over at CNN have really stepped in it with a lame defense of Team Cuomo, who brightened the network’s spring COVID coverage with their delightful brotherly antics which firmly established Andrew Cuomo as the best Empire State Governor since at least George Clinton and a hero to Americans who wanted thoughtful and articulate leadership, even if that meant killing thousands of elderly nursing home residents at the behest of your largest donors. The network naturally rode to the defense of the Cuomo crime syndicate:
CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said Wednesday in response to the report: “We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, 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.”
Left unanswered are some key questions:
(1) Was Fredo really someone who had exhibited symptoms of the virus and thus deserved testing? It seems that his bout with COVID-19 was pretty mild (despite his claims to the contrary), as evidenced by his willingness to break quarantine even as he pretended to be in a great deal of distress.
(2) What was the rationale for testing any of the Cuomo Family beyond the governor, assuming that none of them were experiencing symptoms? Was the Cuomo sister not tested until after her brother received his positive test, and if so, was that because she had been in recent contact with him? Same applies to the Cuomo matriarch and the other family members: with whom exactly had they been in contact in order to justify the test, and how many additional times were they tested after their initial negative result? (Naturally, medical privacy laws give them an excuse for keeping that information private.)
(3) Does CNN really think that it is hunky-dory for their employee and his family to receive (allegedly multiple) COVID-19 tests at a time when they were in short supply in New York State and people who were experiencing obvious symptoms of the virus were having trouble getting tested? This goes a long way of explaining why their network has become so unwatchable and their hosts so tiresome and stale.
As we have chronicled here recently, the sharks are swimming around Governor Andrew Cuomo, even if it remains to be seen if they will get up the nerve to take a bite. But I think it’s high time we are done with that awful family of creeps and thugs once and for all.