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Zucker resigns as state's health commissioner

Zucker file photo
Mike Groll/Office of (former) Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Dr. Howard Zucker, seen during a briefing earlier this year, resigned Thursday as New York Health Commissioner.

Howard Zucker has resigned from his position as New York State's health commissioner, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced during her COVID briefing Thursday.

He will remain in the position until his successor is chosen and confirmed.

"He understands that I, in this time, I've wanted to take the first 45 days to assemble a new team going forward. That process is ongoing," Hochul said. "And he understands and he respects that, and he also has an opportunity to move on to new ventures, and I appreciate him and his service.

Zucker, who led the New York State Health Department under the Cuomo Administration, came under fire along with the former governor for publicly undercounting deaths in nursing home as the result of COVID-19 last year.

State Senator and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, the North Tonawanda Republican, was quick to respond to this morning's announcement: "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."

Hochul announced Zucker's resignation later into her briefing (shown below), after opening with comments about a new incentive program for vaccinations, working in collaboration with National Football League teams including the Buffalo Bills. The incentive is to sign up for a vaccination and be entered into a drawing for tickets, merchandise, or face time sessions with NFL alumni.

Bills co-owner Kim Pegula and former Bills player Bruce Smith appeared virtually to support the incentive program.

"I am fully vaccinated. And it is important that all of New York gets vaccinated in this fight against COVID-19," said Smith. "Together, we can protect one another from this deadly disease. And we can get get back to life as normal. So get vaccinated. Protect your loved ones. And, go Bills."

(shown below

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.