The resignation of Dr. Howard Zucker as state health commissioner marks the end of a term marred by scandal over his role in managing the coronavirus pandemic.

The much-debated March 2020 order compelling nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients, though it originated in the governor’s office, was issued under Zucker’s authority.

Later, when that decision was blamed for worsening the death toll in nursing homes,  Zucker played a central role in the Cuomo administration’s efforts to obscure what happened—by misstating how the directive worked, withholding data, publishing falsified research under the Health Department’s name and stonewalling inquiries from the Legislature.

The Empire Center contributed to ending the coverup when it successfully sued for the full nursing home death toll under the Freedom of Information Law. After the data were released under court order in February, the center documented a statistical correlation between COVID-infected admissions under the March 2020 policy and higher mortality rates in homes that complied—contradicting Zucker’s claim that the policy has no effect.

Here are highlights of the Empire Center’s work on the pandemic in New York nursing homes:

New York’s nursing home nightmare (a detailed history of Empire Center v. Department of Health)

‘Like fire through dry grass’: Documenting the Cuomo administration’s cover-up of a nursing home nightmare (Empire Center report)

2020 HINDSIGHT: Rebuilding New York’s Public Health Defenses After the Coronavirus Pandemic (Empire Center report)

COVID-positive Admissions Were Correlated with Higher Death Rates in New York Nursing Homes (Empire Center report)

“New York Needs to Release Its Covid Data” (Wall Street Journal op-ed)

“NY officials covered up more than just nursing-home deaths” (New York Post op-ed)

“It was like pulling teeth: On Tish James’ nursing home report and Gov. Cuomo playing games with the truth” (Daily News op-ed)

“The Hospital Lobbyists Behind Cuomo’s Nursing Home Scandal” (Wall Street Journal op-ed)

NY’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Toll: Did State Policy Make it Worse? (video podcast)

Cuomo Administration Ducks Important Questions on Nursing Homes (blog post)

Nursing Home Vacancy Rate Soars, Hinting at a Higher Coronavirus Toll (blog post)

 

About the Author

Bill Hammond

As the Empire Center’s senior fellow for health policy, Bill Hammond tracks fast-moving developments in New York’s massive health care industry, with a focus on how decisions made in Albany and Washington affect the well-being of patients, providers, taxpayers and the state’s economy.

Read more by Bill Hammond

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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