All 20 of New York’s Republican state senators called Wednesday for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s embattled Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to resign in the wake of revelations that he withheld the enormity of nursing home deaths from COVID-19.
Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) — who last week demanded that Zucker step down — said that every one of his colleagues had joined in that effort.
“The Department of Health has betrayed the public trust in the middle of the worst public health crisis we have faced in a generation,” Ortt said in a written statement.
“The first step to repair that trust is the resignation of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.”
Ortt added: “The Attorney General’s report was just the tip of the iceberg — this is just the beginning of what I think should be a thorough investigation into the actions of [Cuomo] and his entire administration.”
State Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville) accused Zucker of being “complicit in the coverup” and “distorting and holding back on the truth.”
Tedisco also suggested the pandemic “cost more lives” than it should have due to a since-rescinded, March 25 DOH directive for nursing homes to accept “medically stable” COVID-19 patients.
“That’s why he should resign. He’s failed the people miserably, more than he has failed us in the Legislature,” Tedisco told The Post.
State Sen. Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park) also said, ““We’re all looking for accountability and transparency.”
“While I believe resignations will be inevitable, I don’t want to see anyone resign without first answering the tough questions,” she said in a written statement.
“If the Commissioner continues to withhold data, it will absolutely come to that, but at the end of the day the buck stops at the top—with the Governor—and that’s why we need a thorough independent investigation into the state’s handling of this crisis to understand where accountability truly lies.”
Last week, a report issued by Attorney General Letitia James forced Zucker to finally release figures that showed a total of 12,743 nursing home residents had died of COVID-19 in both hospitals and nursing homes as of Jan. 19.
The DOH had previously only released the number of residents who died at their nursing homes.
The mass GOP call for Zucker’s resignation action came as New York’s Republican Congressional delegation asked the US Justice Department to serve subpoenas on Cuomo and other officials for records related to what they called the “coverup” of the death toll that followed a March 25 DOH directive for nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients.
Also Wednesday, an Albany judge ruled that the Department of Health violated the Freedom of Information Law by refusing to release nursing home fatality figures and grieving relatives blasted Cuomo for trying to downplay the controversy over the death toll on Friday, when he said, “Who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
A spokesman for the DOH defended Zucker’s performance.
“Dr. Zucker is focused on fighting the pandemic — just as he has done every single day for over 335 days,” the spokesman, Gary Holmes, said.
“If you think he’s affected by partisan attacks, you don’t know him. Dr. Zucker publicly made clear that this information was going to be released before the hearing and it has been.”
Cuomo’s office did not immediately returned requests for comment.
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