ALBANY, N.Y. — Relatives of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others with connections to him received special access to coronavirus tests a year ago when testing was scarce, according to published reports in newspapers.
Members of Cuomo's family including his brother, CNN journalist Chris Cuomo, his mother and at least one of his sisters were tested by top health department officials, some of them several times, according to the Times Union of Albany.
The testing of people closely tied to the Democratic governor was carried out by high-ranking state health officials, The New York Times reported. It mostly happened in the early days of the pandemic in March 2020.
The newspapers cited multiple people with direct knowledge of the testing but did not identify them.
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, did not explicitly deny that the administration had extended special treatment to people close to the governor but sought to dispute the notion.
"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," Azzopardi said in a statement to the newspapers, adding that the effort included "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 to prevent others from developing the disease.
Chris Cuomo was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March of 2020. The CNN anchor was swabbed by a top state health department doctor who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family, people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post, which did not identify them.
In a statement late Wednesday, CNN spokesperson Matt Dornic said: "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."
The same doctor who tested Chris Cuomo, Eleanor Adams, now a top adviser to the state health commissioner, also was enlisted to test other Cuomo family members, two people familiar with the program told The Washington Post.
The coronavirus test specimens were then rushed to the Wadsworth Center, a state public health lab in Albany, where they were processed immediately, the people said.
News of the priority testing program comes as the third-term governor battles controversies on multiple fronts, including an investigation by the state attorney general into allegations of sexual harassment, which Cuomo has denied, and a federal inquiry into the state's reporting of COVID-19 in nursing homes.