Cuomo banned the health service. to work with New York officials during COVID: ex-boss
A former state health department infectious disease expert said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office banned the agency from working closely with the New York City and New York City Department of Health. other county public health officials during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Dr Elizabeth Dufort, the former medical director of the state’s DOH epidemiology office who personally administered Cuomo’s first COVID-19 swab test last year, made the explosive statement during a questioning by lawyers hired by State Attorney General Letitia James who investigated sexual harassment and other allegations against the ex-governor.
“We were not allowed to collaborate with our peers from local health services
and the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, which is an essential part of an outbreak response to collaborate with different facets of public health, ”said Dufort, identified as an employee of State # 2, in over 200 pages of testimony.
She noted that it is local health officials who implement policies, especially during a pandemic.
“So in general, not being able to collaborate with them the way we normally would have really hampered our ability to do our job which we felt,” Dufort said.
“And collaborate with other associations, organizations and associations or community or state-wide organizations. This would be normal during an epidemic response or certainly during a pandemic. “
Everything had to be approved in advance, Dufort said.
“We had to stop doing webinars with them. We couldn’t collaborate with them on assessments of different issues and projects, ”said Dufort, who resigned last December.
When asked who was preventing collaboration with city and county health officials and delaying other decisions, she said her colleagues told her that “it came from the executive chamber” – the office. of the governor.
“There was a desire for the messages to come from the governor, and not from several people as normally happens in an epidemic. And there was a desire to make sure everything was very cohesive and exactly as desired by the leadership of the House outbreak response. “
The lack of communication between and local health officials came as Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio were locked in an ugly feud that lasted even during the worst of the pandemic as thousands of New Yorkers were dead from the deadly virus.
She also said that one of Cuomo’s top collaborators, Linda Lacewell, would yell at state health officials during conference calls.
Cuomo landed in hot water in May 2020 when he commented on Dufort’s physical appearance after administering a COVID-19 swab test to the governor.
“You make that dress look good,” Cuomo said as Dufort – dressed in the personal protective equipment that had become standard for medical professionals during the pandemic – stepped out of his live televised briefing in Albany in May. .
Dufort said the dress’s creepy and dignified remark was inappropriate – in addition to Cuomo telling it to be “gentle but precise.”
“I interpreted it as something of an inappropriate comment versus a bad joke versus a comment that had sexual overtones and probably wouldn’t be said to a male doctor, some sort of combination of those things “Dufort told investigators.
“I was in the middle of a pandemic with a lot of work to do and didn’t think it necessarily reached, by my understanding, the level of an official report.”
But Dufort said her husband was furious and didn’t want her around Cuomo anymore after hearing the remarks.
“He was upset and sort of upset that I wasn’t going to do anything,” she told AG investigators of her husband’s response.
“He didn’t want me to be alone with him anymore. He wanted me to bow to him, he said, “I don’t trust the governor. I’ve heard other stories in Albany and now this one. I don’t want you to be alone with him again, ”she recalls telling him.
The latest shocking details emerged after James on Wednesday released transcripts from ten of Cuomo’s accusers and witnesses and the disgraced ex-governor’s own 515-page sworn testimony from the investigation into an avalanche of allegations by harassment that toppled his governorship.
James’ independent report corroborated claims Cuomo allegedly harassed or sexually abused 11 women, including current and former staff and a stateswoman. Facing likely impeachment, Cuomo resigned in August after the damning report was released.
Further investigations into Cuomo’s $ 5.1 million coronavirus book contract and nursing home actions during the pandemic are ongoing.