New York coronavirus testing sites were told to prioritize Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle, who were ‘treated like royalty,’ report says

Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
  • Gov. Cuomo's friends and family reportedly received preferential COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic.
  • The Washington Post spoke to seven sources who explained how the priority system worked.
  • "Inner circle" members had their samples rushed to a lab by a state trooper and got faster results.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

New details are coming to light about how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's friends and family reportedly received special treatment early in the coronavirus pandemic, when tests were scarce and took a long time for the general public.

Multiple sources told The Washington Post that people in the governor's "inner circle" had their samples rushed by state troopers to the lab, where they were put on the top of the pile, and received results in a matter of hours, as opposed to the weeklong waiting times that the general public endured at the time.

"There is no reason why state testing teams should have been diverted to these people," a person with knowledge of the priority list told The Post.

A nurse also described the frenzy that occurred when site leaders told workers that Cuomo's extended family were arriving at their testing site in late spring 2020.

"I remember them being like, 'They're coming, they're coming,' " the nurse said. "And they would say, 'Have the state trooper ready … have it ready to go to Wadsworth [a state lab].' There was a lot of anxiety over those samples getting to the right place."

coronavirus testing
A nurse administers a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Suffolk County, New York, on December 18, 2020.

"They were treated like royalty," the nurse added. "I didn't understand why they were able to jump the line."

Among those who received this kind of special treatment was the clothing and footwear designer Kenneth Cole, who is married to the governor's sister Maria, one nurse told The Post.

The Post reported that Department of Health physician Eleanor Adams was also sent multiple times out to the Hamptons to test the governor's brother, the CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who announced last March he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

These visits to Chris Cuomo's house sometimes lasted hours, at a time when Adams was in charge of coordinating testing issues for high-risk settings like nursing homes, two people familiar with the visits told The Post.

andrew cuomo kenneth cole
A 2005 photo of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) and his brother-in-law, the fashion designer Kenneth Cole.

Cuomo's administration has denied that the governor secured priority treatment for his friends and family.

"There was no 'VIP' program as the Washington Post describes - when priority was given, it was to nurses, guardsmen, state workers and other government officials central to the pandemic response and those they were in direct contact with, as well as individuals believed to have been exposed to COVID who had the capability to spread it further and impact vital operations," Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told The Post.

Azzopardi said that any priority system that was made, "was built by those in charge of running the sites and the Governor had no knowledge that tests were being prioritized at those sites."

But one nurse's account seemed to contradict this denial, saying: "We would always hear, 'This is coming from the governor's chamber.'"

chris cuomo andrew cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his brother Chris Cuomo in 2015.

The governor's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on Tuesday morning.

While regarded as a hero for helping lead New York through the worst of the outbreak last year, Gov. Cuomo has now found himself at the center of multiple scandals, with members of his own party calling for him to resign.

In addition to the reports that his friends and family received preferential treatment during the pandemic, Cuomo is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and a federal investigation on his office's purported undercounting of New York's nursing-home COVID-19 deaths.

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