New York chief justice among those who received priority COVID-19 test – .

New York chief justice among those who received priority COVID-19 test – .

ALBANY – New York Chief Justice Janet M. DiFiore and her relatives were among those who received priority COVID-19 testing last year, along with family members of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and other people with ties to the governor.

A public health nurse and several members of the New York National Guard were dispatched to DiFiore’s private residence in Southampton on Long Island last August to perform the tests, according to a person familiar with the matter. The test samples were transferred to a state soldier who rushed them to a state-run lab where they were processed promptly.

A spokesperson for the State Courts Administration Office confirmed on Friday that DiFiore and members of his family were tested at his Southampton residence last summer. He said this took place after a young member of the judge’s family tested positive for the infectious disease.
“It was the one and only time,” said Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the Office of Courts Administration. “She contacted the (state health department) to see what to do and these people showed up to do what they did. “

Priority testing is one of the goals among several ongoing investigations into allegations against Cuomo and his administration. Two of the inquiries are being conducted by the state attorney general’s office and the state assembly judiciary committee, which is investigating the governor’s impeachment. A third investigation into Cuomo nursing home guidelines and policies during the pandemic is underway by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.

If there were a Cuomo impeachment trial in the State Senate, DiFiore, as the state’s chief justice and head of the Court of Appeals, would be involved in that proceeding and would sit as one jurors.

The Times Union first reported in March that senior members of the state’s health department had been led by Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr Howard Zucker to perform priority coronavirus testing on those close to the governor as well as on influential people with links to the administration.

Members of Cuomo’s family, including his brother, mother, and at least one of his sisters, have also been tested by senior health department officials – some on multiple occasions, sources told The Times Union earlier. .

Medical officials hired to perform the tests, which often took place in private residences, included Dr Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became Zucker’s special advisor. Adams performed tests on Cuomo’s brother Chris, who is a presenter for CNN, at his Long Island residence, the two people said.

It may be a violation of the Civil Servants Act if government officials use government resources for the benefit of another person, including a family member. No official, employee, legislator or legislative employee “should use or attempt to use his official position to obtain unjustified privileges or exemptions for himself or others”, according to Article 74 of the law.

A State Police source said on Friday that after one of the tests carried out on Chris Cuomo at his Southampton residence, a State soldier was ordered to park at an exit along the Long Island Expressway, to leave the trunk of his cruiser open and wait for the sample. The soldier then hastily took this sample to the Wadsworth lab in Albany, the person said.

Other people who have been given priority testing included Rick Cotton, executive director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, and his wife, as well as Patrick J. Foye, director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Foye and Cotton both announced in March 2020 that they had tested positive for the coronavirus. Foye was tested after showing symptoms, according to an MTA spokesperson.

Cuomo has denied being aware of the preferential tests for his relatives, but officials familiar with the matter said the governor was not only aware of the tests, but had ordered that they be carried out when they involved members of his family.

Officials in the Cuomo administration said testing at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 was not preferential, and they noted that public nurses were being driven to private residences in New Rochelle – the site of the first outbreak. state – to test people who were symptomatic or who had been exposed to the virus. During this period, state police soldiers were largely responsible for driving these samples to the Wadsworth Center lab in Albany, which was initially the primary testing location for the coronavirus.

Richard Azzopardi, senior adviser to the governor, has previously called the claims of preferential treatment “insincere efforts to rewrite the past”.

“At the start of this pandemic, when the focus was on contact tracing, we absolutely went above and beyond to get people tested – including in some cases going to people and going door-to-door. door in places like New Rochelle – to take samples from those allegedly exposed to COVID to identify cases and prevent others, ”Azzopardi said.

However, by the time DiFiore and his loved ones received priority testing on August 23, there were state-wide coronavirus testing sites statewide and additional options for someone to be tested.

People with close ties to the governor, including those close to him, also had their samples moved to the front line in Wadsworth. They were called “critical samples”.

Another person familiar with the matter said the “sampling missions” had unsettled some of the senior health department officials responsible for collecting the samples from private residences – including Adams, who had previously worked in the department’s regional office. of Health in New York for the Program of Epidemiology of Health Care and Infection Control.

Chris Cuomo had announced on March 31 of last year that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would be quarantined at his Long Island residence in Southampton, where he continued to do his nighttime show despite his illness.

“My brother Chris is positive for the coronavirus – discovered this morning,” the governor said during his daily briefing on March 31. “Now he’s going to be fine. He’s young, in good shape, strong – not as strong as he thinks – but he will be fine. But there is a lesson in this. He is an essential worker. … He just worries about his daughter and his children. He hopes he hasn’t infected them. “

Chris Cuomo’s testing took place at the start of the pandemic, at a time when many members of the public were struggling to get coronavirus tests.

In March, when the Assembly’s Democratic majority leaders announced they had selected Davis Polk & Wardwell, concerns were raised about the law firm’s independence because of its unspoken ties to Cuomo. : DiFiore, who was appointed by Cuomo, is married to Dennis E. Glazer, a retired lawyer who worked at Davis Polk for 31 years; he was the head of litigation practice for the firm.

Glazer is president of the College Council of Purchase College at the State University of New York. He was appointed to the board by Cuomo. There is no compensation for the role, but members are reimbursed for their expenses.

Prior to being appointed to the Court of Appeals, DiFiore was Cuomo’s first choice to chair the State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Debra Katz, attorney for Charlotte Bennett – a former Cuomo aide who is among several women to accuse the governor of sexual harassment – called the law firm’s continuation an “unacceptable conflict of interest” in the investigation. ‘Assembly on Cuomo.

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