At least nine top Cuomo administration health officials have resigned, retired or been reassigned amid the COVID-19 pandemic that’s devastated New York — while embattled Health Commissioner Howard Zucker has kept his job despite last week’s damning attorney general’s report.
The flood of departures from the Department of Health include Dr. Elizabeth Dufort, former medical director in the division of epidemiology and Dr. Jill Taylor, former head of renowned Wadsworth Center research lab in Albany, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing state records.
None of the others were identified by name, but The Post reported in July that the state’s chief nursing home regulator was about to retire, following the deaths of more than 6,200 nursing home residents.
Mark Kissinger was not part of DOH’s controversial, March 25 directive for nursing homes to admit “medically stable” COVID-19 patients and sources said at the time that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had yet to find anyone “dumb enough” to take his job.
Deputy Health Commissioner Brad Hutton, who ran the Office of Public Health, also left in August with plans to work on “infectious disease and public health issues nationally,” the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
Hutton’s LinkedIn profile says he now runs a consulting company in the upstate Capital Region.
A former DOH executive told The Post that morale among his ex-colleagues couldn’t be lower.
“Everyone I know wants to get out. The attitude is, `Everyone is stupid except for the for people in the governor’s office,’” the source said.
“People in the department feel they’re being set up for failure. They’re told to do this, that or the other thing — and if it doesn’t work out, they’re told they’re failures.”
Last week, Cuomo stood by Zucker despite intense controversy over a report by Attorney General Letitia James that revealed state officials downplayed the total number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths by withholding the number of residents who died in hospitals.
James’ report prompted Zucker to release figures showing that 12,743 residents had died in nursing homes and hospitals as of Jan. 19.
A day earlier, the official DOH list of nursing home fatalities only included 8,711 who had died in the facilities.
Questions about James’ report also led Cuomo to callously ask at a Friday news conference, “But who cares [if they] died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
In a statement to the Times, Zucker said that the state was facing “an intense period of extraordinary stress and pressure and a different job than some signed onto.”
He also claimed that “many others joined the agency with the talents necessary to confront this new challenge,” adding that the proof of that “is in the performance numbers.”