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Wouldn't say how office was made safe for female accusers

Cuomo relatives had priority COVID-19 testing at start of pandemic – reports

Outlets say those with ties to NY governor received preferential access to tests in March 2020; state troopers allegedly used to help transport samples

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at his office, March 24, 2021, in New York. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at his office, March 24, 2021, in New York. (Brendan McDermid/Pool Photo via AP)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced additional accusations on Wednesday in a report that alleged he gave family members preferential access to coronavirus testing during the early stages of the pandemic.

According to the Washington Post, the governor’s brother Chris Cuomo, a CNN anchor who tested positive for the virus last March, benefited from the priority testing program when he was “swabbed by a top New York Department of Health doctor, who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family.”

Two people familiar with the matter told the newspaper that the doctor, Eleanor Adams, who is now a top adviser to the state health commissioner, tested multiple other members of Cuomo’s family.

The outlet said state troopers were used to help get the test samples to a laboratory where some staff worked overtime to process the results, which were then quietly released to the Cuomo family.

CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo at the WarnerMedia Upfront in New York, May 15, 2019. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

The Albany Times Union reported that Cuomo’s brother, mother and at least one of his sisters were among those tested by health officials, some of them several times.

The testing often took place at private residences and included other high-profile officials and members of the media with ties to the Cuomo administration.

“If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that’s one thing — that’s actually good,” a person with knowledge of the matter told the outlet. “This was not that.”

The New York Times said the tests were carried out for the Cuomo family as “the seriousness of the virus was still becoming clear to the broader public and testing was not widely available to most people.”

Cuomo’s office did not address the allegations directly but told Axios in a statement that the administration went “above and beyond to get people testing” at the start of the pandemic.

The governor is already under fire for his handling of the pandemic, including reports earlier this month that top aides altered a state Health Department report to omit the true number of people killed by COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes.

In this April 17, 2020, file photo, a patient is loaded into an ambulance by emergency medical workers outside Cobble Hill Health Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. New York state is now reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities as the state faces scrutiny over how it’s protected vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The allegations over the testing came as Cuomo declined to say Wednesday what his office is doing to ensure a safe work environment for two female aides who have accused him of sexually harassing or groping them.

Speaking to reporters from his Manhattan office, Cuomo said “there are rules” about how employers are supposed to handle such complaints, then turned to his special counsel, Beth Garvey, to elaborate.

“Certainly every individual who comes forward and makes a complaint is protected from retaliation and we are making sure that occurs in this case as well,” Garvey said.

They didn’t answer a question about whether the women were working from home or offer specifics on how the situation was being handled.

State and federal law protects employees from retaliation, like being fired or demoted, for complaining about harassment.

Several women who worked for Cuomo have accused him of making inappropriate comments about their looks, giving them unwanted hugs or kisses, or making comments they interpreted as gauging their interest in an affair.

Demonstrators call on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign at a rally in New York City on March 2, 2021. (Scott Heins/Getty Images/AFP)

Among them are two aides who still work in the governor’s office. One, who has yet to speak publicly, reportedly said the governor groped her at the Executive Mansion last summer. Another, Alyssa McGrath, said Cuomo looked down her shirt and made suggestive remarks to her.

The governor has denied touching anyone inappropriately but said he’s sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable.

He insisted Wednesday, in response to a reporter’s question, that the scandal and ongoing investigations by the state attorney general and State Assembly were not interfering with his ability to govern.

“The reality is the exact opposite,” he said.

McGrath’s lawyer, Mariann Wang, said it was vital that “the governor and his office allow the attorney general’s lawyers to do their work without interference, and take no action against any victim or witness who has come forward.”

“Ms. McGrath has always feared retaliation given the history and public reports of how prior complaints have been handled. There’s every indication that the ‘rules’ that the governor now invokes were not applied to protect those women,” she said.

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