Recent public events have been branded with the note that they are closed to the press “due to COVID restrictions.” The events, sometimes held at vaccine centers, have occurred a handful of times in recent days.
During a press conference at the Javits Center in New York City, where Cuomo announced a new Essential Workers Memorial and encouraged New Yorkers aged 16 and above to get vaccinated, he did not take any in-person questions.
He also did not take in-person questions following a press briefing in Queens, New York, on Monday.
No members of the press were allowed at either event due to the COVID-19 restriction, but non-media members were present.
When asked during a virtual briefing why certain people were allowed to safely attend the events when the press was not, Cuomo said the “substance of the event” is the priority.
“It’s a total size of the, of the population in the room. Right? It’s the total size of the group,” Cuomo said. “You don’t get two groups, one for the reporters and one for the people in the room. It’s the total number of people. And we try to keep the number of people down and we try to keep social distancing mandates.”
He also said that the virtual briefing gives him the chance to speak with as many as 60 reporters, which he said would not be possible in a room.
“Being able to do questions, like the way we are now [over the phone] with whatever we have – you know 40 reporters, 50 reporters, 60 reporters, I couldn’t do that in a room,” Cuomo said.
Four people were called on to ask questions on Monday’s phone call. Cuomo was not asked about ongoing claims of sexual harassment or accusations that he gave special treatment to family and friends in the beginning of the pandemic when testing supplies were scarce.
A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office decline to offer further comment on the policy, including on how long it would last.
Cuomo is dealing with a number of issues as his office decides not to allow reporters to attend media events, including the fact that nine women have come forward and accused him of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior.
He has also come under scrutiny after it was reported that he prioritized his family and executives with ties to his administration for COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic, accusations that his office has fought back against.
In addition to each of these issues, there are also concerns over how the state cared for nursing home patients during the pandemic and whether the governor’s office intentionally underreported related deaths.
There are multiple ongoing investigations into these issues, including one led by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.