At least nine senior state health officials have either retired or resigned from New York’s Department of Health in recent months due to a downturn in morale caused by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to the New York Times.
The Times said they spoke to five people with direct experience inside the state’s health department, with Cuomo seemingly the common denominator in a list of concerns expressed since the coronavirus pandemic began in March of last year.
Cuomo reportedly declined using the vaccination protocols in place within the health department and developed in the past few years with help from local departments of health, according to the article.
Ultimately, Cuomo decided on implementing a vaccination rollout method that was dependent on large-scale health facilities, such as Long Island’s distribution head Northwell Health, to conduct the inoculations to their own staff and the general public.
The governor was lauded by much of the public in the early days of the pandemic for his daily briefings that were made virtually available to everyone throughout the state and nation. New Yorkers and those who lived out of state would comment the phrase “America’s Governor” every so often, citing his transparency, straightforwardness, and lack of sugarcoating as reasons to adhere to health and safety mandates.
Cuomo was also vocal and made points about trusting the medical experts when it came to the coronavirus, rather than political talking heads such as former President Donald Trump. Now, at a time when the state is hovering around the middle of the pack in terms of inoculation rates throughout the United States, Cuomo’s comments at a Friday press conference were something New Yorkers had not heard from their governor.
“When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Cuomo said referring to the level of scientific knowledge throughout all governmental levels throughout the pandemic. “Because I don’t. Because I don’t.”
The Times said state health officials were “blindsided” by finding out the rollout would be conducted on a more local scale by hospitals and other health care entities. Cuomo’s orders regarding indoor dining restrictions and capacity limits on gyms were also met with surprise, according to the Times.
The Times also said health officials were often informed of the eligibility for who could be tested for the virus, a note of transparency and inclusion that reportedly swayed as the pandemic grew on, one health official told the Times.
“In the pandemic, the opposite happened,” one health official told the Times.
“Morale certainly was and continues to be at an all-time low,” the official continued.
Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, expressed the unprecedented levels of stress and pressure that the pandemic has had on various departments throughout the state to the Times.
“The Times’s point is several staff left — true, and many others joined the agency with the talents necessary to confront this new challenge,” Zucker told the Times.
Cuomo also responded to the Times, stressing the importance of preserving lives throughout the state and putting vaccinations into the arms of New Yorkers as quickly as possible.
“If Times reporters think I push hospitals too hard and local governments too hard, I say I’m a fighter for the people of New York and I believe I’m saving lives,” Cuomo told the Times.
Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling told the Times, “If you’re asked to help, you help… There’s nothing nefarious about this at all.”