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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

23 hours ago - Health

COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought

Tyson Foods in Portland, Maine, in 2020. Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Cases and deaths from COVID-19 among workers at the five largest U.S. meatpacking companies were nearly three times higher than previously thought, according to a memo from the House panel probing the response to the pandemic.

Driving the news: At least 59,000 workers contracted COVID-19 and 269 workers died at Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill, National Beef and Smithfield Foods — which together make up more than 80% of the beef market and 60% of the pork market in the U.S. — according to counts through January of this year.

13 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Fauci: "I would vaccinate them in a second" — CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds.
  2. Health: COVID cases fall by 20% — Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic — Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization, study finds — COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought.
  3. Politics: NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate — Judge rejects Southwest pilots' challenge to vaccine mandate — Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools.
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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