Former health official claims Cuomo staff interfered during pandemic

The transcripts from the New York Attorney General's Office investigation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo are shedding light on conflicts and controversies that unfolded within his administration. 

A former top official in his administration testified about what was going on at the state Health Department during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Her name is not revealed — she is referred to as State Employee No. 2 in the transcripts. She is a former top infectious disease expert with the Health Department.

During the height of the pandemic, "we were not allowed to collaborate with our peers in the local health departments and New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, which is a critical component in an outbreak... certainly during a pandemic," she testified. "We weren't really able to communicate with them openly as we normally would or send out information and updates as we normally would. These were things that had to go through approval and would either not be approved or it would take so many months it was quite out of date."

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The former official testified that she also raised red flags with the Health Department's legal affairs director when she discovered that COVID-19 test results from the Wadsworth Center state lab were not being shared. She said she asked him to speak to the governor's office.

"I just want you to tell them to stop, the labs have to get to the doctors and the local health departments immediately with this disease, it's very important," she testified that she said.

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Bill Hammond is the senior fellow for health policy for the Empire Center for Public Policy, an independent nonprofit think tank in Albany.

"It was kind of striking to see this coming from the mouth of somebody who was in the department, an M.D., an epidemiologist who had experience in previous pandemics," Hammond told FOX 5 NY.

Nearly a dozen state Health Department employees quit in the last year reportedly out of frustration because they felt their hands were tied by the governor's office.

"It's mystifying and it demands investigation," Hammond said. "If I was a member of the legislature, I'd be extremely curious what these people have to say."