New York health commissioner resigns

New York health commissioner resigns
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New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, who oversaw the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and faced criticism for sending COVID-19-positive patients back into nursing homes, has resigned from his position.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced at a press conference on Thursday that Zucker had submitted his resignation but would continue in his role until a replacement could be found. Zucker was a key member of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.

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Cuomo resigned in August following a storm of sexual harassment allegations, which he denied, though the governor was also facing heat for his nursing home policy during the pandemic.

On March 25, 2020, Cuomo signed an executive order shielding nursing homes from liability when admitting COVID-19-positive patients. The purpose of the order was to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed when New York became the first U.S. coronavirus epicenter, but Cuomo rescinded it on May 10, 2020.

The order was linked to over 1,000 additional resident deaths, policy government watchdog group the Empire Center for Public Policy reported in February. In March, Zucker was named in a Wall Street Journal report as one of the members of Cuomo's team who pushed state health officials to alter a July 2020 report on COVID-19 nursing home deaths that led to an undercount in fatalities.

After requesting data, the Justice Department announced in July that it would not pursue an investigation into the nursing home policies in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that critics say led to thousands of unnecessary deaths due to the transmission of COVID-19.

Hochul said she is in the process of transitioning to a new team.

“He understands that, in this time, I’ve wanted to take the first 45 days to assemble a new team going forward,” Hochul said during her announcement. “That process is ongoing, and he understands and he respects that.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who oversaw the investigation that found Cuomo credibly accused of sexual harassment, said that Zucker’s resignation “marks the end of a difficult chapter for our state.”

“While I thank him for his service, we need more transparency and accountability at the Department of Health as we continue to battle COVID-19,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the next health commissioner, who must safeguard the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable, and must do so with openness and great care.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

In his resignation letter, Zucker said he was proud of New York’s achievements against the pandemic.

“Though we continue to address new quagmires related to the pandemic, from issues of booster shots to legal challenges regarding vaccine mandates, I believe that in our particular state the most difficult aspects of this may be behind us,” he wrote.

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Tags: News, Andrew Cuomo, New York, Coronavirus, Nursing Homes, Kathy Hochul

Original Author: Virginia Aabram

Original Location: New York health commissioner resigns

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