NEW YORK NOW – After it was revealed this week that federal prosecutors are looking into how friends and family of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and one of his top aides received preferential COVID-19 testing at the start of the pandemic, the three-term governor defended the practice Thursday.
Cuomo said that, because he was leading the state’s response to the virus, anyone who was going to come in contact with him had to be clear of the disease.
“If you’re going to sit with a governor, they wanted to test you before you were exposed to the governor,” Cuomo said. “I was running COVID response for this state, so I didn’t want to get COVID, and precautions were taken.”
It’s been revealed in recent weeks that both Cuomo’s brother and his mother received rushed, preferential COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the pandemic, when tests for the disease weren’t easily available to the public.
And, according to the New York Times, members of Cuomo’s family received preferential treatment as late as last month. Giorgio DeRosa, a top Albany lobbyist who’s the father of Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, also received testing, according to the Times.
Now, federal prosecutors are looking into that practice as part of their investigation into his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data on nursing homes. Cuomo’s been accused of withholding the true number of deaths at those facilities for political reasons.
For most of the pandemic, the Cuomo administration chose to only report nursing home deaths that happened within those facilities. So, residents who died after they were transferred to a hospital weren’t included in that count.
At the same time, top aides for Cuomo reportedly stalled the release of that data for months, fearing it wasn’t an accurate representation of what happened in nursing homes.
That changed in January, when the New York Attorney General’s Office accused the administration of undercounting the number of nursing home residents who died during the pandemic. The full data was then released.
The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into whether the Cuomo administration inappropriately handled the data, and has now apparently expanded that inquiry.
“These are toxic political times,” Cuomo said. “Let people look at whatever they’ll look at. We didn’t do anything in New York state that wasn’t done by anyone else.”
The probe is in addition to an impeachment investigation that’s been opened by the Assembly, which is looking into sexual harassment claims made against Cuomo, his administration’s handling of nursing homes, whether he used state resources to write a book, and more.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, and has defended his administration’s handling of nursing homes, saying their response was based on the data on hand during the pandemic.