State, local leaders weigh in on Dr. Zucker’s resignation

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Commissioner of Health for New York State Howard A. Zucker speaks to reporters during a news conference at a New York State COVID-19 vaccination site in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in New York. New York state expanded COVID-19 vaccine distribution Tuesday to people 65 and over, increasing access to an already short supply of doses being distributed. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(WIVB) — Governor Kathy Hochul announced State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker resigned during her COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday morning.

Hochul says he will remain in his role until they hire a new health commissioner.

Dr. Zucker faced criticism during the pandemic, particularly with nursing homes, and now state and local leaders are sharing their thoughts on him stepping down:

Dr. Zucker’s decision to resign was necessary. After months of uncertainty over his role in Governor Cuomo’s nursing home scandal, New Yorkers, especially the thousands who lost loved ones throughout the pandemic, welcome this change. Nonetheless, today’s decision should not deter the ongoing investigation into Dr. Zucker’s actions regarding nursing home deaths. The pursuit for answers must continue. Government officials who make missteps will be held accountable. I urge Governor Hochul to nominate a Commissioner of Health that genuinely represents the health interests of all New Yorkers. One who prioritizes transparency and communication rather than politics. 

Senator Ed Rath

I look forward to new leadership at the Department of Health to better serve the residents of our state. In the meantime, many questions remain about the department’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Investigations currently underway must continue and Dr. Zucker should be held accountable for decisions made on his watch.”

Senator Patrick Gallivan

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. 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.”  

Senator George Borrello

Dr. Howard Zucker’s resignation as Commissioner of the State Department of Health (DOH) was an obvious and overdue step. That’s why I, and members of the Assembly Minority Conference, called on Gov. Hochul to make an immediate change. While he remains at DOH until a replacement is named, arriving at this point should not have taken so long. Throughout the COVID pandemic, Dr. Zucker was more interested in protecting Andrew Cuomo’s image than protecting public health. As Gov. Hochul begins the process of finding a new health commissioner, I hope she looks for an individual without ties to the previous administration or the numerous controversies that defined it.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Howard Zucker should have been fired! He was the Cuomo/Hochul Administration’s right hand man carrying out the deadly nursing home order and cover up and having state Health Department employees provide preferential COVID testing to the administration’s friends and family at private residences and then moving the samples to the front of the line at the state lab. Instead of kicking Zucker to the curb, Kathy Hochul is letting him hang around for a couple extra months, and depart on his terms, giving him a pat on the back on the way out for a supposed job well done. What a joke!”

Congressman Lee Zeldin

Howard Zucker’s resignation is welcome news to all the local public health officials whose input into COVID-19 he ignored, to all the medical professionals who had to endure a Department of Health agenda driven by politics over public health necessities, and to the thousands of families whose loved ones’ deaths were covered up by him, under orders he falsely claimed were based on science. To be clear, his resignation should’ve happened in January, when I first called for it. Howard Zucker chose to protect Andrew Cuomo’s political career above protecting the health of New Yorkers. We hope that he and Andrew Cuomo have occasion to continue discussing and refining their warped version of science during their retirement from public service.

Senate Republic Leader Rob Ortt

Dr. 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. 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.”

Attorney General Letitia James

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