“You are not being fired”: Poloncarz responds to group asking for health commissioner’s resignation

Erie County

ERIE COUNTY N.Y. (WIVB) — “No, Dr. Gale R. Burstein has saved countless lives in this community. And the individuals who are out there critiquing her, have their right to their opinion, but they don’t have the right to the facts. You are not being fired.”

That’s what Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz had to say about demands from a local parent group calling for Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein’s resignation. They say the health department’s policies regarding COVID in the schools and quarantining ultimately keep kids out of the classroom.

“If you’re a medical professional, if your job is to understand the pandemic, if your job is to create an effective response to the pandemic, I think the county, at this point, has shown that they’re not capable of doing that,” said Jonathan Rich parent advocate with WNY Students First parent.

The group says children are being impacted academically, mentally and emotionally.

“What families are going through are true suffering. I hear from someone on a weekly basis, ‘Can you put me in touch with the crisis hotline? I need counseling services for my child,'” said Tarja Parssinen, parent advocate with WNY Students First.

The county maintains that their policies are based on science and the NYS health department standards. The county’s recent surge in COVID cases is now being seen in school-aged students.
Poloncarz says there’s now 642 new cases in local schools.

“Not every case, but almost all cases are students, not faculty and staff like we saw earlier. They’re students,” Poloncarz said.

Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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