State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has announced his resignation.
Governor Kathy Hochul announced Zucker’s departure Thursday during a COVID-19 briefing, adding that he will stay on as health commissioner until the position is filled. Zucker’s resignation marks the departure of one of the last remaining prominent members of former Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s administration.
Zucker’s resignation letter painted a picture of New York supposedly bouncing back after the worst of the pandemic has passed, with 75% of people above the age of 18 already being vaccinated, and shots in arms for children looming on the horizon.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Zucker became a fixture at Cuomo’s daily Covid briefings, offering in-depth explanations about the use of masks and social distancing while answering tough technical questions about the transmission of the virus. Zucker previously steered New York through outbreaks of Ebola, Legionella, Zika and the measles, amid other health scares, according to his resignation letter.
Despite initial praise, the Cuomo administration received mounting criticism for its response to the pandemic. State Attorney General Letitia James issued a report in January that found administration officials undercounted COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents by approximately 50%. In a statement at the time, Zucker denied there was an undercount.
State Senator George Borrello issued a statement saying, “As one of those who has been calling for Howard Zucker’s resignation for months, today’s news is welcome, although sorely overdue. His complicity in the Cuomo administration’s coverup of nursing home deaths and COVID deaths overall, mismanagement of the pandemic response, and politicization of the Health Department have been a stain on our state and compromised vital public health functions at a critical time.
Borrello added, “It is troubling that he, like his former boss, appears to be exiting on his own terms. If he is resigning, he should leave today. Anything less than that means that he will be continuing to make decisions that affect the lives of all New Yorkers. If this is truly a new era of transparency in New York State government, his departure cannot come a moment too soon.”