Sep 23, 2021 - Health

Howard Zucker resigns as New York health commissioner

Howard Zucker, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, speaks during a news conference

Howard Zucker, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, speaks during a news conference. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York State health commissioner Howard Zucker resigned on Thursday following pressure for his role in withholding nursing home COVID-19 death numbers under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Why it matters: Zucker led New York's response to COVID-19 last year but came under fire for reportedly undercounting the death toll in nursing homes by as much as 50%.

  • A report released by state Attorney General Letitia James found that the state's public health department severely undercounted COVID nursing home deaths, prompting the FBI to open an investigation.
  • Senior aides reportedly engaged in a campaign to keep state health officials from releasing the full nursing home death toll caused by the coronavirus, according to the New York Times.
  • Zucker said after the report's release that "there was nothing wrong in the accuracy of the health department's numbers."

The big picture: Zucker, who was hired in 2015, will stay on board until a replacement is made to assist the transition, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

  • "There comes a time when the baton should be passed in this marathon journey that we call public service in New York state," Zucker said in his resignation letter.

What they're saying: Hochul thanked Zucker for his service and emphasized that she was building a new team following Cuomo's resignation.

  • Hochul had previously said she would take up to early October to decide whether to keep Cuomo cabinet officials, including Zucker, on board.
  • “I think I made it very clear on my first day in office that I’d be looking to build a new team," Hochul said Thursday, per the New York Times. "There will be other changes forthcoming."
Go deeper