According to a new report, Governor Cuomo’s administration ignored a request from a county official who asked for enough COVID tests to cover three nursing homes last spring, while Cuomo’s family was allegedly given priority for testing.
There has been an uproar in the media following the accusation that Cuomo gave preferential treatment for COVID testing to his family, including his brother Chris Cuomo of CNN fame. Thousands of nursing home residents reportedly died as the Democrat governor mandated that infected individuals had to be admitted into New York nursing homes.
In April of 2020, Jack Wheeler, who is the manager of upstate Steuben County, reportedly asked the state Department of Health to provide them with a sufficient number of tests to cover every resident and staff member who was employed by three different nursing home facilities in the county. In the end, they were only provided with enough supplies for just one of those nursing homes.
This follows hot on the heels of The Albany Times-Union reporting that Cuomo allegedly wielded his influence to obtain COVID tests for powerful individuals connected to his administration and for his family, including his brother at CNN and his elderly mother, Matilda. Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton and his wife, as well as MTA chief Pat Foye, some state legislators, and their staff, were also purportedly given priority.
(Video Credit: TODAY)
“I’m furious because testing of the most vulnerable population should be the absolute priority and a simple request,” Wheeler told the New York Post.. “But [that] high-level, connected people had that luxury when we couldn’t even get people in the nursing homes tested is just infuriating.”
After receiving an insufficient number of tests, Wheeler went to Steve Acquario, who is the executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, for help. Acquario reportedly drove for eight hours through a number of counties in search of enough tests for the nursing homes.
“I knew where there might be some extra test kits in counties where they could afford to spare them, so I met them to pick up the kits at various drop-offs,” Acquario explained. “[Wheeler] and his county attorney reached out to me in despair and desperation. They were truly in a crisis.”
“It was up to eight hours of driving, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.
Steuben County’s Health Director Darlene Smith proceeded to search for tests for the third nursing home. Originally, Dr. Gregory Young, who is the state DOH’s western region coordinator, had approved the requested tests. But there was a change of plans on April 10 which was the day the tests were supposed to take place. The doctor called Smith and said that “decisions were being made in Albany.”
“I knew then that it was completely not going to happen,” Smith declared.
Eventually, enough tests were acquired for the testing, but only after tremendous effort.
“Those nursing homes were raging with positive cases and deaths and the purpose of universal swabbing of both residents and staff was to identify positive cases, isolate the positive staff and … get the positive residents cohorted together to prevent further spread,” stated Smith.
“We had to beg, borrow, and steal basically and were able to get test kits from other counties,” she noted. “Now knowing [that] what limited supply there was was being hoarded now for friends and family — it’s criminal. It’s just really hard to understand.”
Cuomo is denying that his family was given preferential treatment. His spokesman categorized the article by The Albany Times-Union as “insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”
The DOH followed suit: “In the absence of any real federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State stepped forward and from the very beginning did everything we could to protect our most vulnerable population,” said spokesman Jonah Bruno. “Anyone can attempt to rewrite history or rehash out of context conversations a year later, but that doesn’t change the facts.”
“New York State created the best testing infrastructure in the world, which tested every resident, in each of the state’s 613 nursing homes by the first week in June, and continues to support nursing home staff and more recently visitor testing, by providing facilities more than 1.1 million rapid tests,” he defensively stated.
These allegations will now become part of an impeachment investigation and an ethics complaint against Cuomo.
The New York Post is reporting that there was at least one other request that was torpedoed:
Emails obtained by The Post through the Freedom of Information Law show that Steuben County wasn’t the only jurisdiction to have a request for more stringent testing in nursing homes denied.
In mid-April 2020, officials in Onondaga County drafted a proposed emergency order that would empower them to mandate testing of employees in county nursing homes.
They submitted the proposed order to state DOH officials for approval on April 15 — and received a response rejecting it the very next day, without an explicit explanation for the ruling, email correspondences obtained by The Post show.
Less than a month later, however, on May 10, Cuomo mandated that all nursing home staff statewide be given diagnostic tests twice weekly.
The governor handed down that directive as he quietly issued a partial reversal of an infamous March 25 mandate forbidding nursing homes from turning away residents on the sole basis of a coronavirus diagnosis.
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