Zucker has agreed to live up to the name of the new health commissioner.
New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, a former government chief defender. Andrew Cuomo has submitted his resignation over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Thursday.
Hochul thanks Zucker for his service and says he agrees to remain so until the state names a new commissioner.
Zucker, who was appointed as health commissioner by Cuomo in 2015, was a key figure in the state’s pandemic response last year as the New York City metro area became one of the world’s worst COVID-19 hot spots.
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Cuomo often praised Zucker for his leadership, and the two appeared together regularly at widely watched televised briefings of Democrats.
Under Zucker, the health department worked with hospitals across the state to ensure that the surge of COVID-19 patients did not overwhelm the hospital system.
But Zucker has faced sharp criticism over the state’s COVID-19 response, especially in nursing homes.
More than 15,800 people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in New York have died of COVID-19, according to data released by the state this year.
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Zucker has defended a directive that has been canceled since March 2020 stating that nursing homes cannot refuse to admit patients simply because they had COVID-19.
Zucker and Cuomo have said the directive was needed to ensure that elderly patients do not deteriorate in hospitals.
Hochul said on Thursday that she was following through on her previously announced intentions to hire her team.
“I’m looking to form a new team,” Hochul said.
Zucker also faced criticism from health care workers, who said the state had failed to ensure that hospitals and nursing homes had adequate personal protective gear and staff during the peak of the pandemic.