New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has skipped 17 White House meetings about COVID-19 vaccines and turned down a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to discuss the federal government’s rollout plan, according to sources.
The calls were designed to brief state leaders on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and how it would eventually be rolled out, the source said.
This week Pfizer said its vaccine was found to be 90 percent effective against COVID-19 in clinical trials, marking a major breakthrough in the nation’s fight against the virus.
Cuomo responded saying the development was ‘good news’ but that it was ‘bad news’ the vaccine’s rollout will be planned by the Trump administration before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured) has skipped 17 White House meetings about COVID-19 vaccines and turned down a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to discuss the federal government’s rollout plan, according to sources
According to two sources, Azar reached out to Cuomo on October 21 inviting him to a one-on-one meeting with him and the heads of Operation Warp Speed to discuss the governor’s concerns about the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout plan.
The invitation reportedly came in response to a letter sent from Cuomo to Donald Trump on October 15 demanding answers over how a vaccine would be distributed across New York state, in particular how it would reach poor communities of color.
But the sources said Cuomo’s special counsel Alexander Cochran turned down the offer of a meeting, demanding all the governor’s questions be answered in writing.
Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who leads the National Governors Association (NGA) with Cuomo, did however accept the offer and met with the health secretary that day, the sources told the Post.
Azar then also wrote a letter to Cuomo and Hutchinson on October 30 answering 32 questions about the vaccine rollout process including funding, supplies and storage, they said.
It is not clear if this was all of the questions the governors had or whether the answers addressed the concerns.
The White House source also told the Post Cuomo missed 17 governor calls in a row with the coronavirus taskforce from June 1 to October 30.
Cuomo has previously admitted to skipping the calls, telling Alan Chartock on WAMC’s ‘The Roundtable’ last week he would learn more about the virus from ‘a circus’.
‘I’ve also missed circuses. I don’t go to a lot of circuses,’ Cuomo said.
‘Between the White House conference call and a circus, I think a circus would teach me more about COVID. I was on the last call. It’s a joke.’
According to two sources, Azar (pictured) reached out to Cuomo on October 21 inviting him to a one-on-one meeting with him and the heads of Operation Warp Speed the next day to discuss the governor’s concerns about the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout plan
While the Democrat slammed the calls, an unidentified senior staff member at a Republican governor’s office told the Post they found the calls ‘extremely helpful’.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the White House and Cuomo’s office for comment.
Peter Ajemian, a spokesperson for Cuomo, told the Post Wednesday the governor asked for answers in writing because Trump had refused to meet NGA leaders and backtracked over sending funds to New York for its COVID battle.
He also slammed Azar as ‘political and incompetent’.
‘Azar has proven himself to be equal parts political and incompetent, which is why when Trump refused to meet with the NGA leaders they made a simple request to answer their questions in writing – a reasonable ask after Trump reneged on his commitment to cover 25 percent of New York’s FEMA reimbursement for COVID,’ he said.
‘We received a letter back but the response left unanswered questions and the fact remains there are many unknowns and flaws with the federal government’s plan, and the administration of a safe and effective vaccine is too important to let Trump-style politics get in the way.’
However White House spokesman Michael Bars told the Post Cuomo was preventing ‘meaningful collaboration’ over the vaccine rollout.
‘It’s disgraceful, but not without surprise, that Gov. Cuomo would continue to engage in politically-motivated attacks that obstruct the federal planning process than meaningful collaboration to save lives,’ Bars said.
‘The administration is harnessing the full power of the federal government, private sector, military, and scientific community in an unprecedented private-public partnership to deliver a safe and effective vaccine as soon as possible. Gov. Cuomo is trying to stop it.’
On Monday, as news broke of Pfizer’s vaccine breakthrough, Cuomo told Good Morning America he had hoped the vaccine rollout could be planned by the Biden administration
Cuomo has repeatedly locked horns with the Trump administration over its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, as news broke of Pfizer’s vaccine breakthrough, Cuomo told Good Morning America he had hoped the vaccine rollout could be planned by the Biden administration.
‘The good news is the Pfizer tests look good and we’ll have a vaccine shortly,’ Cuomo said.
‘The bad news is it’s about two months before Joe Biden takes over, and that means this administration is going to be implementing a vaccine plan.’
Cuomo blasted Trump’s rollout plan as ‘flawed’ and warned ‘all sorts of communities’ may not get access to the jab.
‘And the Trump administration is rolling out the vaccination plan and I believe it’s flawed,’ Cuomo continued.
‘I believe it learns nothing from the past. They’re basically going to have the private providers do it, and that’s going to leave out all sorts of communities that were left out the first time when COVID ravaged them.’
He added: ‘We can’t let this vaccination plan go forward the way that Trump and his administration is designing it.’
Azar hit back at Cuomo’s comments in a Fox interview Monday calling the suggestion he may not accept a Trump-led vaccine ‘unconscionable.’
Cuomo blasted Trump’s rollout plan as ‘flawed’ and warned ‘all sorts of communities’ may not get access to the jab. Trump pictured Wednesday
The claims about Cuomo’s absence come as the governor is currently facing a backlash over his own handling of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Cuomo announced new lockdown measures on New York and warned the state’s positivity rate was the highest in months.
Cuomo ordered bars, restaurants and gyms in the state to shut down on-premises services at 10 p.m. and capped private parties at 10 parties in new rules that come into effect Friday.
He warned New Yorkers ‘COVID is getting worse by the day’.
But he was slammed on social media after the announcement as it comes just one month after he released his book ‘American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic’ praising his own leadership during the pandemic.
Cuomo describes in the book trying to placate Trump in order to get needed hospital beds, ventilators and other supplies for New York.
Meanwhile, the book falls short of addressing his own failings, including the thousands of patient deaths at New York nursing homes.