Pharmaceutical firm received special access to state-run COVID-19 tests

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Pharmaceutical firm received special access to state-run COVID-19 tests


A powerful pharmaceutical company honcho with ties to Governor Andrew Cuomo had special access to state-run COVID-19 tests during the onset of the coronavirus crisis last spring – when swabs were nearly impossible to find , according to a report released Thursday.

George Yancopoulos, chairman of pharmaceutical company Regeneron, was brought in for testing by state officials after a “member of his family was infected with COVID-19,” according to the New York Times, which cited a spokesperson for the company.

The tests were conducted at the home of Yancopoulos – who has a history of investments backed by Cuomo and his family – last March amid a statewide shutdown and panic over the then-widespread virus. unknown, according to the newspaper.

In other cases, influential people were taken by state soldiers to the Wadsworth Center, a state-run laboratory in Albany, where workers were tasked with processing the tests immediately, sources told the newspaper.

Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference at his New York office.
Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference at his New York office.
Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Preferential testing treatment has also reportedly been extended to members of Cuomo’s family, including his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, his mother, Matilda Cuomo, and at least one of his sisters, it has been said. revealed Wednesday.

New York State Assembly investigators said Thursday they were seeking to determine who had special access to state-run coronavirus tests at the start of the pandemic, the newspaper reported.

Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Lavine said lawmakers would investigate the matter as part of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and death data hidden in nursing homes against Cuomo and his administration.

“Anything that comes to the attention of the committee is going to be reviewed and studied,” Lavine told The Times. “I will only say that inquiries have been made. We are paying attention and will act accordingly. ”

Inappropriate use of a government role for an official to obtain “privileges or exemptions” for himself or others is illegal under state law, the newspaper reported.

In April, Regeneron created 500,000 test kits and provided them free to the Empire State. He then played a key role in efforts to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk coronavirus patients.

The ties between the Cuomo family and the company have run deep for decades. Mario Cuomo, the governor’s father, invested $ 250,000 in Regeneron in 1991 while he was governor to support the company.

In 2018, the current administration granted the company up to $ 140 million in incentives to expand its business in the Albany region, the newspaper reported.

A spokesperson for the company said they had requested the tests and Yancopoulos was not involved in their request.

“Dr. Yancopoulos has directly led the company’s ambitious and successful efforts to advance breakthrough therapy for this devastating pandemic, ”said company spokesperson Hala Mirza.

“As an essential worker, leading and meeting regularly with his research team, and to ensure that Dr Yancopoulos did not pose a risk to this team, Regeneron asked the state to conduct tests for his household afterwards. that a member of the household has been infected with Covid-19, ”Mirza added.

A spokesperson for Cuomo called the claims of preferential treatment “hypocritical and hypocritical efforts to rewrite the past.”

“At the start of this pandemic, when the focus was on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people tested,” said Richard Azzopardi.

George Yancopoulos, co-founder of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, president and chief scientific officer, poses for a photo on the company's Westchester campus in Tarrytown, New York.
According to the report, Yancopoulos had the COVID tests brought to his home.
Brendan McDermid / Reuters

The effort included “in some cases going to people’s homes” to identify cases and prevent others from getting sick, he said.

He added: “Among those we helped were members of the general public, Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and journalists – including local and national journalists – government officials and their families, and those who would be in. direct contact with the governor. ”

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