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U of M's Osterholm denies claim he was 'chief adviser' to NY Gov. Cuomo

Dr. Michael Osterholm says he's only had one five-minute conversation with the governor.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a top epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, has denied he was a chief adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

This is the latest in the fallout over the governor's handling of nursing home data related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In May 2020, Cuomo said he brought in Osterholm, the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, to provide "technical advice and analyze data/metrics throughout the state's reopening process and help track the state's progress." 

And earlier this month, the New York Times reported Cuomo's top aides told Democrats he speaks regularly with Osterholm and Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

But on Friday, Osterholm in an interview with PBS' Firing Line denied he was one of Cuomo's top health advisers.

"I have not had anything to do with his nursing home activity at all. I came on basically in early June only just to review data on a weekly basis – did it meet the standards that they had set? So I was almost more of a technician than any kind of technologist," Osterholt said. 

He added, "I've never met with their group. I've had one five-minute conversation my entire life with Gov. Cuomo, just a few weeks ago when he called me just to congratulate me on a TV program appearance."

When asked about his top aides calling Osterholm one of his top advisers, he said "that's absolutely not true. Never true. I've had one five-minute conversation, which is a surprise, and he had seen me on MSNBC and just wanted to call and say what a great job I did."

It does not appear that Cuomo has commented on Osterholm's claims, but Richard Azzopardi, a chief adviser to Cuomo, responded on Twitter: 

Cuomo has come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats after the Democratic governor admitted some responsibility in withholding data on COVD-related deaths in New York nursing homes. Meanwhile, federal officials have reportedly opened an investigation into his administration's handling of nursing home deaths. 

Want to know more? This BBC story explains all the details of the controversy. 

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