The New York attorney general’s office called on ethics investigators Thursday to look into reports that embattled governor Andrew Cuomo and others connected to him received special access to coronavirus tests a year ago, when such testing was scarce.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James, Mr Cuomo’s fellow Democrat, issued a statement urging New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) to investigate after the reports were published in the Times Union of Albany, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
“The recent reports alleging there was preferential treatment given for Covid-19 testing are troubling,” the statement read.
“While we do not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter, it’s imperative that JCOPE look into it immediately.”
Walt McClure, a spokesperson for the ethics commission, said it could not comment “on anything that is or might be an investigative matter”.
Members of Mr Cuomo’s family including his brother, CNN journalist Chris Cuomo, his mother, and at least one of his three 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 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.
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Mr Cuomo, did not explicitly deny the administration had extended special treatment to people close to the governor but sought to dispute the notion. The governor’s office did not provide responses to a list of questions from The Associated Press, including whether the governor disputes the reports.
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, The Washington Post cited anonymous sources as saying.
CNN spokesperson Matt Dornic said in a statement it was “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”.
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 Mr Cuomo has denied, and a federal inquiry into the state’s reporting of Covid-19 among nursing home residents.
The state Assembly has launched an investigation whether there are grounds to impeach the governor.