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

NY Capitol News

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)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — 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 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.”

Letitia James
Attorney General

“The resignation of Howard Zucker as State Health Commissioner is a positive, necessary, long-overdue step for New York. While we can finally begin the fresh start that our state needs, Zucker’s resignation does not equal a clean slate. There still must be answers, accountability, and justice regarding the tragic nursing home deaths that took place because of Zucker and Cuomo’s disastrous, deadly mandate. Families, my Senate Republican colleagues, and I have continually demanded this since the spring of 2020.”

“We must set a firm precedent for current and future leaders that the truth and public health will not fall victim to politics or political cover-ups, such as those perpetrated by former Governor Cuomo, Zucker, and their enablers. Our state lost over 15,000 senior citizens due to Cuomo and Zucker’s deadly mandate that forced nursing homes to take in COVID-19 positive patients. Zucker and Cuomo tried to cover up their disastrous policy but the truth—and families—were more powerful than their schemes. I am thankful for the strength, courage, and resilience of the families that stood with us, and I will continue advocating for Zucker’s resignation to not be the final word in this important effort to ensure accountability in state government.”

Daphne Jordan
State Senator representing Halfmoon

“Commissioner Howard Zucker put the political interests of his boss, Governor Cuomo, ahead of the public’s best interests during the Covid public health crisis. Today’s announcement of his resignation while long overdue is certainly welcomed news.

“The state health department’s directive which forced nursing homes to take in Covid-positive residents was a terrible mistake that directly led to the loss of many lives. But even more reprehensible was the Cuomo administration’s deliberate cover up of the nursing home data while the former governor penned his $5 million memoir.

“Many of us were also dismayed when Cuomo and Zucker bypassed our well-trained and well-prepared county health departments for vaccine distribution. Instead, a confusing and frustrating state distribution system had some seniors driving three hours across the Adirondacks in the middle of winter for a vaccine rather than getting one close to home.

“Many questions about the nursing home reporting scandal remain unanswered and I’d like to see Zucker face questioning under oath to get to the whole truth. While Zucker’s resignation doesn’t absolve him or Cuomo from responsibility, it will at least enable the Department of Health to move out from under the horrible shadow of controversy and distrust that their actions cast across the state.”

Dan Stec
State Senator representing Glens Falls

“Sadly, in New York corrupt governors and their sycophant henchmen who don’t take responsibility for their bad actions don’t get impeached or fired…they just skulk away. Good riddance to Dr. Zucker, who should have been fired last year as I was among the first legislators to call for. Zucker should be removed today immediately and an interim Health Department Commissioner should be named. The families of the 15,000 New Yorkers who lost their lives to COVID-19 in nursing homes that Zucker and former Governor Cuomo covered-up still deserve an apology and justice for what happened to their loved ones – one of the worst tragedies in New York State history.”

Jim Tedisco
State Senator representing Glenville

“Howard Zucker should have been asked to resign on day one of the new administration, and while I’m glad to see him stepping down now, I remain concerned his replacement will favor the mandate-heavy approach taken by the previous administration that has continued under Hochul,” said Tague. “In fighting the spread of COVID-19, we must be sure our approach is nuanced and based on the circumstances each unique region in our state faces as a whole. Unnecessary one-size-fits-all mandates like the ones implemented by the previous administration do little to protect health, and take an enormous toll on families and small businesses. My hope is that his successor will be more calculated in managing the COVID-19 pandemic while respecting the realities faced by businesses and New York families, as well as their rights.”

Chris Tague
Assemblymember representing Schoharie

“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.”

Rob Ortt
State Senate Republican Leader

“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.”

Will Barclay
Assembly Republican Leader

“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!”

Lee Zeldin
Congressman representing Long Island, GOP candidate for NYS Governor

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